The Government of Canada has announced a new “expert” advisory group on online safety as the next step in enforcing censorship and regulating the Internet.
On 30th March 22, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Pablo Rodriguez, and the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, David Lametti, announced a new expert advisory group on online safety as the next step in developing legislation to address harmful online content.
The expert advisory group will be mandated by the Government of Canada to provide advice on a legislative and regulatory framework that best addresses what the Government of Canada deems to be harmful content online.
The group is composed of diverse “experts” and specialists from across Canada who will contribute their knowledge and experience from a variety of fields:
Amarnath Amarasingam, Assistant Professor, School of Religion, Queen’s University
Bernie Farber, Chair, Canada Anti-Hate Network
Chanae Parsons, Community Activist and Youth Engagement Specialist
David Morin, Full Professor, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Université de Sherbrooke
Emily Laidlaw, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Calgary
Ghayda Hassan, Professor of Clinical Psychology, Université du Québec à Montréal
Heidi Tworek, Associate Professor, School of Public Policy and Global Affairs and History, University of British Columbia
Lianna McDonald, Executive Director, Canadian Centre for Child Protection
Pierre Trudel, Professor, Faculty of Law, Université de Montréal
Signa A. Daum Shanks, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa
Taylor Owen, Beaverbrook Chair, Media, Ethics and Communications
Vivek Krishnamurthy, Samuelson-Glushko Professor of Law, University of Ottawa
The expert advisory group will hold nine workshops to discuss various components of a legislative and regulatory framework for online safety. They will also take part in additional stakeholder engagement, including with digital platforms.
The group’s mandate, the supporting materials for each session, and non-attributed summaries of all sessions and discussions will be published. All Canadians can follow the progress of these discussions on how the Government of Canada will enforce censorship and regulate the Internet.
“It’s clear that harmful online content is a serious problem, but there is no consensus on how to address it. We’re asking the expert advisory group to go back to the drawing board.” Said Pablo Rodriques, Minister of Canadian Heritage.
“We need to address this problem openly and transparently as a society. I’m grateful to the experts who will dedicate their time and experience in the next few months to helping us tackle this complex issue. It’s too important to not get right.”
Back in July 2021, the Government of Canada launched a public consultation seeking Canadians’ views on a detailed technical discussion paper that outlined a proposal for regulating online platforms and combating certain types of harmful content online.
The proposal was published by the Ministers of Canadian Heritage, Justice, and Public Safety, and it contemplated the creation of rules for how social media platforms and other online services must address harmful content. The proposal set out:
Which entities would be subject to the new rules;
What types of harmful content would be regulated;
New rules and obligations for regulated entities;
New regulatory bodies to administer and oversee the new framework and enforce its rules and obligations;
Amendments to An Act respecting the mandatory reporting of Internet child pornography by persons who provide an Internet service (the Mandatory Reporting Act); and
Amendments to the CSIS Act.
The public consultation closed on September 25th, 2021. It solicited 422 unique responses and 8,796 submissions from open campaigns. Of the 422 unique responses: 350 were from individuals; 39 were from civil society and other organisations; 19 were from industry; 13 were from academics; and 2 were from Government or Government-adjacent organisations.
This led to the release of What We Heard: The Government’s proposed approach to address harmful content online. Unfortunately, many of those responses called for even tighter censorship to be enforced by the Government of Canada.