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Trudeau’s online harms bill threatens freedom of expression, constitutional lawyer warns

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8 minute read

From LifeSiteNews

By Anthony Murdoch

The legislation could further regulate the internet in Canada by allowing a new digital safety commission to conduct ‘secret commission hearings’ against those found to have violated the new law.

A top constitutional lawyer warned that the federal government’s Online Harms Act to further regulate the internet will allow a new digital safety commission to conduct “secret commission hearings” against those found to have violated the new law, raising “serious concerns for the freedom of expression” of Canadians online.

Marty Moore, who serves as the litigation director for the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms-funded Charter Advocates Canada, told LifeSiteNews on Tuesday that Bill C-63 will allow for the “creation of a new government agency with a broad mandate to promote ‘online safety’ and target ‘harmful content.’”

“The use of the term ‘safety’ is misleading, when the government through Bill C-63 is clearly seeking to censor expression simply based on its content, and not on its actual effect,” he told LifeSiteNews.

Moore noted that the bill will also “open doors for government regulation to target undefined psychological harm.”

The new government bill was introduced Monday by Justice Minister Arif Virani in the House of Commons and passed its first reading.

Bill C-63 will create the Online Harms Act and modify existing laws, amending the Criminal Code as well as the Canadian Human Rights Act, in what the Liberals under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau claim will target certain cases of internet content removal, notably those involving child sexual abuse and pornography.

Details of the new legislation to regulate the internet show the bill could lead to more people jailed for life for “hate crimes” or fined $50,000 and jailed for posts that the government defines as “hate speech” based on gender, race, or other categories.

The bill calls for the creation of a digital safety commission, a digital safety ombudsperson, and the digital safety office.

The ombudsperson and other offices will be charged with dealing with public complaints regarding online content as well as put forth a regulatory function in a five-person panel “appointed by the government.” This panel will monitor internet platform behaviors to hold people “accountable.”

He said that while the Commission’s reach is “only vaguely undefined,” it would have the power to regulate anyone who operates a “social media service” that “has a yet-to-be-designated number of users or is “deemed a regulated service by the government without regard to the number of users.”

According to the Trudeau government, Bill C-63 aims to protect kids from online harms and crack down on non-consensual deep-fake pornography involving children and will target seven types of online harms, such as hate speech, terrorist content, incitement to violence, the sharing of non-consensual intimate images, child exploitation, cyberbullying and inciting self-harm.

Virani had many times last year hinted a new Online Harms Act bill would be forthcoming.

Law opens door to secret or ‘ex parte’ warrants, lawyer warns

Moore observed that Bill C-63 also gives the commission the ability to seek secret or “ex parte warrants to enter people’s homes and to impose massive fines.” He told LifeSiteNews this will “likely coerce those operating social media services to exceed the Commission’s requirements of censorship on Canadians’ expression.”

Moore also confirmed that the Trudeau government’s new bill will “allow for” the creation of “secret commission hearings” simply on the basis that the “commission considers secrecy to be ‘in the public interest.’”

Moore told LifeSiteNews that the bill will also allow for the digital safety commission to be made an “order of the Federal Court.” He said this brings about a “serious concern that the commission’s orders, reissued by the Federal Court, could result in people being fined and imprisoned for contempt, pursuant to Federal Courts Rules 98 and 472.”

“While people cannot be imprisoned under section 124 of Bill C-63 for refusing to pay a Commission-imposed fine, it is possible that having a Commission order reissued by the Federal Court could result in imprisonment of a person for refusing to impose government censorship on their social media service,” he said.

 Lawyer: Trudeau’s bill will allow for ‘confidential complaints’

As part of Bill C-63, the Trudeau Liberals are looking to increase punishments for existing hate propaganda offenses substantially.

The Online Harms Act will also amend Canada’s Human Rights Act to put back in place a hate speech provision, specifically, Section 13 of the Act, that the previous Conservative government under Stephen Harper had repealed in 2013 after it was found to have violated one’s freedom of expression.

The text of the bill, released Monday afternoon, reads that the Canadian Human Rights Act will be amended to add a section “13” to it.

Moore warned that the return of section 13, will allow for “confidential complaints.”

As fines top $50,000 with a $20,000 payment to victims, the new section 13, Moore observed, “will undoubtedly cast a chill on Canadians expression, limiting democratic discourse, the search for truth and normal human expression, including attempts at humour.”

Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) leader Pierre Poilievre said the federal government is looking for clever ways to enact internet censorship laws.

On Tuesday in the House of Commons, Poilievre came out in opposition to the Online Harms Act, saying enforcing criminal laws rather than censoring opinions is the key to protecting children online.

During a February 21 press conference, Poilievre said, “What does Justin Trudeau mean when he says the word ‘hate speech?’ He means speech he hates.”

Thus far, Poilievre has not commented on the full text of Bill C-63. Many aspects of it come from a lapsed bill from 2021.

In June 2021, then-Justice Minister David Lametti introduced Bill 36, “An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act and to make related amendments to another Act (hate propaganda, hate crimes and hate speech).” It was blasted as a controversial “hate speech” law that would give police the power to “do something” about online “hate.”

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Economy

Toronto, Vancouver named “Impossibly Unaffordable”

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From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

By Courtney Greenberg

Two Canadian cities — Toronto and Vancouver — have earned the title of “impossibly unaffordable” in a new report.

“There has been a considerable loss of housing affordability in Canada since the mid-2000s, especially in the Vancouver and Toronto markets,” according to the Demographia International Housing Affordability report, which is released annually.

“During the pandemic, the increase in remote work (working at home) fuelled a demand increase as many households were induced to move from more central areas to suburban, exurban and even more remote areas. The result was a demand shock that drove house prices up substantially, as households moved to obtain more space, within houses and in yards or gardens.”

Vancouver was the least affordable market in Canada, and the third least affordable out of all of the 94 markets observed in the report. The West Coast city’s affordability issue has “troublingly” spread to smaller areas like Chilliwack, the Fraser Valley, Kelowna, and markets on Vancouver Island, per the report.

Toronto was named as the second least affordable market in Canada. However, it fared slightly better than Vancouver when it came to the other markets, ranking 84 out of 94 in international affordability.

“As in Vancouver, severely unaffordable housing has spread to smaller, less unaffordable markets in Ontario, such as Kitchener-cambridge-waterloo, Brantford, London, and Guelph, as residents of metro Toronto seek lower costs of living outside the Toronto market,” the report says.

The findings of the report have “grave implications on the prospects for upward mobility,” said Joel Kotkin, the director at the Center for Demographics and Policy at Chapman University, a co-publisher of the report along with Canada’s Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

“As with any problem, the first step towards a resolution should be to understand the basic facts,” he said. “This is what the Demographia study offers.”

The report looked at housing affordability in 94 metropolitan areas in Australia, China, Ireland, New Zealand, Singapore, the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada. The data analyzed was taken from September 2023. The ratings are based on five categories (affordable, moderately unaffordable, seriously unaffordable, severely unaffordable, and impossibly unaffordable) with a points system to classify each area.

The report determined affordability by calculating the median price-to-income ratio (“median multiple”) in each market.

“There is a genuine need to substantially restore housing affordability in many markets throughout the covered nations,” said Frontier Centre for Public Policy president Peter Holle, in a statement. “In Canada, policymakers are scrambling to ‘magic wand’ more housing but continue to mostly ignore the main reason for our dysfunctional costly housing markets — suburban land use restrictions.”

Toronto and Vancouver both received the worst possible rating for affordability, making them stand out as the most expensive Canadian cities in which to buy a home. However, other Canadian markets — like Calgary, Montreal and Ottawa-gatineau — stood out as well. They were considered “severely unaffordable.”

“This is a long time coming,” senior economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives David Macdonald told CTV News.

“We haven’t been building enough housing, we certainly haven’t had enough government investment in affordable housing for decades, and the chickens are coming home to roost.”

The most affordable Canadian city in the report was Edmonton, which was given a rating of “moderately unaffordable.” The city in Alberta was “at least twothirds more affordable” than Vancouver.

Overall, Canada ranked third in home ownership compared to the other regions observed in the report. The highest home ownership rate was in Singapore, at 89 per cent, followed by Ireland, at 70 per cent. In Canada, the rate was 67 per cent.

First published in the National Post here, June 17, 2024.

Courtney Greenberg is a Toronto-based freelance journalist writing for the National Post.

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illegal immigration

Illegal Immigrants flooding through Canada into the US include known suspected terrorists

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A Border Patrol agent standing watch at the Montana-Canada border in the CBP Spokane Sector.

From The Center Square

Illegal border crossings at northern border continue to break records

May totals highest for the month in US history

Illegal border crossings at the northern border continue to break records, according to the latest data released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

A record-breaking 18,644, were apprehended illegally entering the U.S. at the northern border in May, the highest total for the month of May in recorded history.

The northern border has seen the highest number of illegal entries in U.S. history under the Biden administration, The Center Square has reported.

In the first eight months of fiscal 2024, more than 99,000 were apprehended after illegally entering through the northern border, according to CBP data. If the current trajectory continues, the numbers are on track to surpass fiscal 2023 apprehensions of 147,666.

Those numbers are up from 92,737 apprehensions in fiscal 2022 and 24,895 in fiscal 2021.

CBP’s fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

The data excluded “gotaways,” the official term used by CBP to describe foreign nationals who illegally enter the U.S. between ports of entry and don’t return to Mexico or Canada. CBP does not publicly report this data. The Center Square first began obtaining it from a Border Patrol agent on condition of anonymity to provide a more accurate picture of monthly apprehension data.

The busiest sector at the northern border is the Swanton Sector, which includes all of Vermont, six upstate New York counties and three New Hampshire counties.

The sector spans 295 miles of international boundary with the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario and is the first international land boundary east of the Great Lakes.

In fiscal 2023, Swanton Sector Border Patrol agents broke previous records by apprehending the greatest number of illegal border crossers in history of more than 6,700 foreign nationals from 76 countries, The Center Square exclusively reported.

They continue to break records.

“In less than 9 months, Swanton Sector Border Patrol Agents have apprehended more than 10,000 subjects from 83 countries,” Chief Border Patrol Agent Robert Garcia said. The total so far this fiscal year, as of June 10, was more than the sector’s entire record-setting fiscal 2023 year, he said. “We continue to see an unprecedented increase of illegal entries across eastern New York and Vermont.”

This is after northern border apprehensions reached their highest level in U.S. history in the first six months of fiscal 2024, with Swanton Sector agents apprehending in one week more than they did in fiscal 2021, The Center Square reported.

Border Patrol agents at the northern border are also apprehending the greatest number of known or suspected terrorists (KSTs), according to CBP data. In the first six months of fiscal 2024, they apprehended 143 KSTs, The Center Square reported, including an Iranian with terrorist ties.

That number is now up to 199, according to CBP data as of June 20. By comparison, 117 KSTs were apprehended at the southwest border over the same time period.

The U.S.-Canada border is the longest international border in the world of 5,525 miles. Unlike the U.S.-Mexico border, there are no border walls or similar barriers separating the U.S. from Canada and most of the northern border is unmanned and unpatrolled.

Numerous reports indicate that lack of operational control at the northern border poses a serious national security threat, The Center Square first reported.

“The northern border is under-resourced by far compared to the southwest border,” former Border Patrol chief Mark Morgan told The Center Square. “But at the same time, it still represents significant threats. Cartels are expanding their operations, flying people into Canada, which doesn’t require a visa, presenting an opportunity for terrorist watch-listed individuals to exploit. It’s much easier to get to Canada to come across.”

The Swanton Sector is currently hiring, Garcia says, offering up to $30,000 in incentives for new recruits, up from $20,000 hiring incentives offered in February.

Garcia also emphasizes how the local community plays a vital role supporting Border Patrol efforts. “Agents rely on the vigilance of our community,” he said. “Swanton Sector received more than 1,000 suspicious activity reports in 2023 and we are grateful for every call. We cannot effectively do our job without assistance from the public.”

As record numbers continue to pour through the northern border, he’s appealing to the public, saying, “We need your help now more than ever. YOUR call matters! 1-800-689-3362.”

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