Public safety minister can't promise tabling of online hate bill before House rises
OTTAWA -- Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says that while progress has been made on the creation of a bill to combat online hate, it’s uncertain whether it will be brought forward before June 23, when the House of Commons rises for summer recess.
In an interview on CTV’s Question Period airing Sunday, Blair said his department, alongside the justice and heritage departments, understand its urgency but time is running out on the sitting calendar.
“We’ve all been working very hard bringing forward that legislation. There’s still a little bit of work to do, but we’ve made an enormous amount of progress,” he said. “I don’t know whether we’ll get that done in the next nine days of Parliament sitting.”
To make matters more complex, there are hints of a fall election on the horizon which means all formally introduced bills would die.
While specific details of the long-awaited legislation have yet to be ironed out, the government has said more generally it will cover five areas: terrorist content, content that incites violence, hate speech, the non-consensual sharing of intimate images, and child sexual exploitation.
Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault told a House of Commons committee Monday he has been in communication with his counterparts in Australia, Finland, France, and Germany about the mechanisms they’re taking to stop the spread of this harmful content, which in some cases includes online tech giants being slapped with fines for non-compliance.
Ottawa has faced renewed calls to take action on online hate following the London, Ont., attack on Sunday that tragically killed four Muslim family members and left a young boy an orphan.
In the House of Commons Friday, MPs gave unanimous consent to a non-binding NDP motion brought forward by London-Fanshawe MP Lindsay Mathyssen demanding an emergency summit on Islamophobia by the end of July.
The motion follows a call for the summit in the form of a petition -- it had more than 40,000 signatures as of Friday evening -- from the National Council of Canadian Muslims.
The CEO of the council appeared in a separate interview on CTV’s Question Period stating that beyond the summit, the real test of government will be its ability to swiftly pass legislation that prevents these tragedies from happening.
“We’ve been calling on a national action strategy for dismantling white supremacist groups. Four out of the 300 that are active in Canada were dismantled, that’s an important step, but it was still four of them. There are many more that remain,” said Mustafa Farooq. “The test of governments, the federal government, the provincial governments, the municipal governments, will be whether they will actually pass things quickly.”
Blair said his team is working with the council and has “heard very clearly from Islamic communities” about the action needed.
With a file from The Canadian Press.