June 20th, 2024

Establishing new regulator for online harms law ‘will take some time,’ minister says

By The Canadian Press on June 11, 2024.

Justice Minister and Attorney General of Canada Arif Virani speaks to reporter ahead of a cabinet meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Tuesday, June 11, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Spencer Colby

OTTAWA – Canada’s justice minister says it will “take some time” to create a new regulator to compel internet giants to better protect Canadians against online harms.

Arif Virani’s comments come as the Opposition Conservatives are criticizing the government’s plan to create a new regulatory scheme through its Online Harms Act as nothing more than an onerous bureaucracy.

The bill seeks to establish a new Digital Safety Commission of Canada, which would have the power to levy fines and evaluate companies’ digital safety plans.

The legislation also proposes setting up as ombudsperson where Canadians could take their concerns, which the government says would be supported by a new Digital Safety Office.

Virani says the government has always known that creating a new regulatory body is going to take some time, but says changes to the Criminal Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act in the bill could take effect more quickly once it has passed.

Civil society advocates and some legal experts are critical of some of the proposed measures, such as stiffer penalties for hate-related offences, saying the changes risk chilling free speech.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 11, 2024.

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