Liberals Should Tackle Online Hate And Conversion Therapy In First 100 Days Of Next Government

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COVID-19 aside, the digital world will be a major focus of Parliament once it resumes this fall, with several important laws expected to be introduced – or reintroduced – by the government.

The Liberals have promised to introduce several major bills in the first 100 days of government, with the countdown starting after the new cabinet is sworn in, which is expected to take place in October.

Among the bills is a law to establish a regulatory system for social media platforms to tackle harmful online content and require digital giants to pay media for their work.

Added to this legislative agenda is the promised swift reintroduction of a bill to regulate streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime, and require them to contribute to the production of Canadian content similar to traditional broadcasters.

On the non-digital side of things, the government has also promised to reintroduce legislation criminalizing the discredited practice of conversion therapy, and a criminal justice reform bill to address the overrepresentation of blacks and Indigenous people in prisons. .

The government should also table an overhaul of the Official Languages ​​Act within 100 days and move forward with measures related to COVID-19, in particular by requiring federal employees to be vaccinated, by requiring that Air and rail travelers be vaccinated and 10 sick days paid for federal workers.

Here’s a closer look at some key pieces of legislation expected this fall and winter.

Harmful online content

The Liberals have vowed to introduce a long-awaited law to regulate social media platforms in order to fight hate online.

“A number of MPs and other leaders I’ve spoken to have said this will be among the top five pieces of legislation to bring forward upon recall from Parliament,” said Bernie Farber, chair of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network.

“We can’t wait any longer. There is literally an epidemic of hate in Canada right now, thousands of incidents, many of which were inspired as a result of online activity. ”

According to discussions and technical papers released by the government this summer, the legislation would establish a new regulatory framework for social media platforms, with a new commission to oversee the system.

This would require platforms to monitor harmful content, respond within specific deadlines to reported content and be more transparent about their operations. The legislation would establish enforcement mechanisms, as well as heavy fines for non-compliance.

Making the media pay the digital giants

This bill would oblige digital platforms, namely Google and Facebook, to pay media organizations a portion of the revenues generated by the publication of works from media. It would also allow outlets to bargain collectively with the platforms.

The president and CEO of industry group News Media Canada said the bill must be passed quickly by Parliament as media organizations – many of which were already in dire financial straits – faced yet another crisis. due to the decline in advertising revenue caused by the pandemic.

“It’s real money that can be invested in real journalists who develop real content,” said Paul Deegan. “What we are looking for is negotiation and fair settlements.

Regulate streaming services

The government promises to quickly reintroduce a bill updating the Broadcasting Act that would regulate streaming services. He has already attempted to do so with his polarizing Bill C-10, which passed the House of Commons at the end of this year’s parliamentary session, but died in the Senate with the election call.

The bill would require streaming sites to contribute financially to the production of Canadian content, to broadcast and to make available a certain amount of it, like the rules that apply to traditional broadcasters.

Controversy erupted this spring over the bill’s amendments, leading to accusations that an individual’s social media downloads are also being regulated. The government insisted that was not the case and offered to clarify this in the previous bill.

“The issue of user-generated content, which was the source of much of the public’s concern, must be clearly excluded from legislation,” said Michael Geist, professor of law at the University of Ottawa.

Conversion therapy

The government has come close to criminalizing the practice of attempting to change the sexual orientation of LGBTQ people to heterosexuals, or forcing those who question their gender identity to align with the sex assigned to them at birth.

The old Bill C-6 was passed in the House of Commons at the end of the last session in June, but died in the Senate with the election call, following delays caused by Conservative MPs and d accusations that the Liberals did not prioritize the bill.

C-6 would have created several new Criminal Code offenses, such as criminalizing forcing a child into conversion therapy or forcing adults into conversion therapy against their will. This will be the government’s third attempt to criminalize this practice.

The new legislation should make it clear that it is a crime to force all individuals, including adults, into conversion therapy, regardless of their consent, said Kristopher Wells, Canada Research Chair in Understanding audience of sexual and gender minorities at MacEwan University in Edmonton.

“You cannot consent to something that is patently fraudulent and harmful,” he said.

Criminal justice reforms

The government will bring back legislation that would repeal mandatory minimum jail sentences for all drug offenses and some gun offenses, allow more conditional sentences such as house arrest, and reform the way people do business. drug possession are dealt with.

The bill is part of the government’s attempt to tackle the overrepresentation of blacks and aboriginals in prisons. The Liberals had already tried to fix the problem in Bill C-22, which died in the previous session after barely moving in the House.

“We urge the government to take another step towards decriminalizing simple drug possession offenses,” said Daniel Brown, vice-president of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association.

The association and criminal justice system experts are pushing the government to repeal more mandatory minimum prison sentences, which prevent judges from tailoring sentences to the circumstances of individual offenders.

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