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Liberals introduce bill to combat online hate speech as Commons adjourns for summer


OTTAWA — The Liberal government has introduced a bill it says will protect Canadians from online hate speech.

It would amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to reinstate an amended version of a controversial section that was repealed in 2013 amid widespread criticism that it violated freedom of speech rights.

It would more narrowly define hatred to mean “the emotion that involves detestation or vilification” that is “stronger than dislike or disdain.”

And it would specify that a statement would not be considered hate speech “solely because it discredits, humiliates or offends.”

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The bill would allow individuals or groups to file hate speech complaints with the Canadian Human Rights Commission, which would be empowered to order perpetrators to cease communications or, in some cases, to pay monetary compensation and penalties.

The bill has little chance of becoming law any time soon; it is being introduced just as the House of Commons adjourns for the summer and, if an election is called as many expect before September, it will die.

The government says the bill will be complemented by a regulatory framework to tackle harmful content online and, in the coming weeks, it will engage Canadians on a discussion paper that will outline the proposal for holding social media platforms accountable for hateful content online.

The framework, as set out in the discussion paper, would create rules for how social media platforms and other online services address hate speech, terrorist content, child sexual exploitation and non-consensual distribution of intimate images.

“Canadians expect their government to take action against hate speech and hate crimes,” said Justice Minister David Lametti in a statement.

“The actions we are taking today will help protect the vulnerable, empower those who are victimized and hold individuals to account for the hatred they spread online.”

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