Government doesn't know best when it comes to online harms says MP

Online Harms Act harmful

This week, I’ll focus on Bill C-63, "An Act to enact the Online Harms Act, to amend the Criminal Code, the Canadian Human Rights Act and An Act respecting the mandatory reporting of Internet child pornography by persons who provide an Internet service and to make consequential and related amendments to other Acts."

Before I begin, I want to remind everyone of Bill C-18, "An Act respecting online communications platforms that make news content available to persons in Canada,” because, as I noted in my column on this bill in May, a government, despite having the best intentions, can exacerbate the problem if it hastily pursues quick solutions.
After Bill C-18 received royal assent and became law, Facebook and Instagram, as predicted by many industry participants and experts, permanently ceased your ability to share news links in Canada on their platforms.

The policy has significantly impacted numerous media organizations that relied on Facebook and other platforms for driving substantial traffic to their online news websites, which in turn, increased their revenue.
I bring up Bill C-18 not as an "I told you so" moment, but to highlight what occurs when a government ignores advocacy groups and critics.

Regrettably, we see this pattern repeating with Bill C-63. Critics, industry participants and advocacy groups are once again being disregarded by the Liberal government, which insists it knows best.

It's important to make the internet safe for Canadians by reducing criminal content targeting children. I think most Canadians would agree with that. However, with the current government, which often appears to be driven by polls, the specifics of achieving this task demand meticulous scrutiny.

Michael Geist, a law professor and Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa has pointed out creating a digital safety commission charged with enforcing the law and with the inclusion of Criminal Code and Human Rights Act provisions with overly broad penalties and the potential to weaponize speech complaints raises red flags.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association also pointed out the creation of a digital safety commission, composed of government appointees given “vast” authority and “sweeping” powers to interpret the law, make up new rules, enforce them and serve as judge, jury, and executioner undermines the fundamental principle of democratic accountability.

The decision of the government with Bill C-63, which gives non-judicial groups sweeping powers over the internet, is worrisome. These officials, appointed by the government, will be complaint-driven and will require less evidence than in a court of law. They will decide what is considered online hate or harmful content and can fine Canadians based on those decisions.

Conservatives believe we need tougher actions against illegal online content. We believe online criminals should face jail time, not just fines.

My question this week:

When it comes to protecting the online safety of Canadians, do you believe an approach such as C-63 is better than the status quo online? Why or why not?

I can be reached at [email protected] or call toll-free 1-800-665-8711.

Dan Albas is the Conservative MP for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola and the co-chair of the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations.

Before entering public life, Dan was the owner of Kick City Martial Arts, responsible for training hundreds of men, women and youth to bring out their best.

Dan  is consistently recognized as one of Canada’s top 10 most active Members of Parliament on Twitter (@danalbas) and also continues to write a weekly column published in many local newspapers and on this website.

Dan welcomes comments, questions and concerns from citizens and is often available to speak to groups and organizations on matters of federal concern. 

He can be reached at [email protected] or call toll free at 1-800-665-8711.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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