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Canada outlines new legislation to make hate speech a crime

If enacted, first-time violators could pay up to $20,000 in fines.

Updated: June 28, 2021 - 12:03pm

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Canada's Liberal Party, led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, is proposing new legislation to make online hate speech a crime.

Under the proposed law, unveiled Wednesday, hate speech could be punishable by as much as $20,000 in Canadian currency, or roughly $16,250 in U.S. currency, for a first offense and up to $50,000 Canadian or $40,600 U.S., for a second offense, according to Reuters.

"These changes are designed to target the most egregious and clear forms of hate speech that can lead to discrimination and violence," Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti said Wednesday, according to the CBC. "They do not target simple expressions of dislike or disdain that pepper everyday discourse, especially online."

The proposed legislation by the Justice Department of Canada would tamp down on hate speech by adding language to the Canadian Human Rights Act and Canadian criminal code to try to clarify the definition of hate speech.

Such speech would be defined as "content that expresses detestation or vilification of a person or group."

However, officials say the proposed law will not punish regular offensive language and would exclude content that hurts, humiliates, or expresses dislike or disdain.

The proposal, if signed into law, would make it easier for individuals to file complaints against people who post on the internet and sites that allow them including websites and blog posts.

Canadian Conservatives say the law is just posturing by Liberals before an election, arguing that the hate speech law would strip Canadians of their rights, including freedom of speech. 

"This bill will not target hate speech – just ensure bureaucrats in Ottawa are bogged down with frivolous complaints about tweets," said Rob Moore, the Conservative Party's Shadow Minister for Justice and Attorney General of Canada.