Government of Canada takes action to protect Canadians against hate speech and hate crimes
June 23, 2021 – Ottawa, Ontario – Department of Justice Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage and Public Safety Canada
Canadians expect to be safe and free from hate speech and hate crimes, online and offline. The Government of Canada is committed to keeping all Canadians safe, while also protecting their rights and freedoms.
Today, the Honourable David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, along with the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Canadian Heritage, and the Honourable Bill Blair, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, announced actions the Government of Canada is taking to better protect Canadians from hate speech and online harms.
As part of this approach, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada introduced amendments to the Criminal Code, the Canadian Human Rights Act, and the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
Too many people and communities in Canada are harmed and victimized by hate speech, which is often amplified and spread online. Online hate can turn into offline hate with devastating impacts on communities and families. We have a responsibility to victims to take action to combat hate online and continue to build a more inclusive Canada.
This proposed legislation takes an important step towards creating a safe online environment that protects all Canadians from hate speech and hate crimes. This initiative will also help to ensure that individuals have access to appropriate tools and resources to seek recourse against purveyors of hate speech and perpetrators of hate crimes. The Government of Canada recognizes the importance of freedom of expression for all Canadians and is taking a balanced and targeted approach to tackle the most extreme and harmful speech.
The bill aims to:
- amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to define a new discriminatory practice of communicating hate speech online, and to provide individuals with additional remedies to address hate speech;
- add a definition of “hatred” to section 319 of the Criminal Code based on Supreme Court of Canada decisions; and
- create a new peace bond in the Criminal Code designed to prevent hate propaganda offences and hate crimes from being committed, and make related amendments to the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
This bill will be complemented by a regulatory framework to tackle harmful content online. In the coming weeks, the Government of Canada will engage Canadians on a detailed technical discussion paper that will outline the proposal for making social media platform operators more transparent and accountable while combating harmful content online.
The proposed framework that will be set out in the technical discussion paper would create rules for how social media platforms and other online services address harmful material such as hate speech, terrorist content, content that incites violence, child sexual exploitation content, and the non-consensual distribution of intimate images.
Over the past year, the federal government has consulted with a number of stakeholders and experts on options for legal remedies for victims of online hate, as well as on the design of potential legislation and a proposed regulatory framework. This next stage of public engagement will provide Canadians and stakeholders with the opportunity to consider specific, concrete proposals, and provide input about the proposed approach.
Taken together, these initiatives seek to address the devastating impacts that hate speech and hate crimes have on individuals, children, families and communities, as well as the social fabric of Canada. Everyone should be safe from such harms.
“Canadians expect their government to take action against hate speech and hate crimes. These legislative changes would improve the remedies available to victims of hate speech and hate crimes, and would hold individuals accountable. The actions we are taking today will help protect the vulnerable, empower those who are victimized and hold individuals to account for the hatred they spread online.”
The Honourable David Lametti, P.C. Q.C., M.P.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
“Online platforms are central to participation in public life and have enormous power over online speech and Canadians’ everyday lives. While they allow us as Canadians to stay in touch with loved ones, learn and debate, they can also be used to discriminate, harm and silence. In consultation with Canadians, the Government of Canada is committed to taking action to put in place a robust, fair and consistent legislative and regulatory framework on the most egregious and reprehensible types of harmful content. This is why we will engage Canadians in the coming weeks to ask for feedback on specific, concrete proposals that will form the basis of legislation.”
The Honourable Steven Guilbeault
Minister of Canadian Heritage
“The Government of Canada is taking action to address harmful content online and make the internet safer. We look forward to hearing from Canadians and to continue working with allies and social media platforms to prevent the internet from being used as a tool to incite and promote terrorism, violence, and hatred.”
The Honourable Bill Blair
Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
The bill addresses recommendations made by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in its 2019 report, Taking Action to End Online Hate. It also addresses comments heard during community consultations to inform Canada’s Anti-Racism Strategy.
The Government of Canada took action to address discrimination and hate both online and offline by signing the Christchurch Call to Action and the release of Canada’s Digital Charter.
According to data released in March 2021 by Statistics Canada, in 2019, police reported 1,946 criminal incidents in Canada that were motivated by hate, an increase of 7% or 129 more incidents than were reported the previous year.
Between 2018 and 2019, the number of police-reported crimes motivated by hatred of a race or ethnicity increased 10%. This increase was largely a result of more hate crimes targeting the Black and Arab or West Asian populations.
In 2017, the number of hate crimes increased markedly by 47% and has remained at comparable levels in 2018 and 2019.
A 2020 study conducted by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue Global concluded that Canadians were using more than 6,600 online channels, pages, groups and accounts across several social media platforms to spread white supremacist, misogynistic or other extremist views.
For more information, media may contact:
Office of the Minister of Justice
Director of Communications
Office of the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
Public Safety Canada
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