By Anthony Murdoch, Apr 15, 2020 | Original LifeSite News article here.
Trudeau plan laws to punish citizens who spread misinformation about COVID-19
Legislation is being discussed to make what the government determines to be ‘disinformation’ a criminal offense.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau outlines Canada’s whole-of-government response to COVID-19,
Ottawa, Ontario, March 11, 2020. Justin Trudeau – Prime Minister of Canada
A Canadian politician who wants a law that would punish anyone spreading “misinformation” about the coronavirus online has the backing of a politician who said “extraordinary times require extraordinary measures.” Canadian Privy Council president Dominic LeBlanc was quoted in a CBC report as saying he is interested in drafting legislation that would make it a criminal offense in Canada to “spread misinformation” regarding the coronavirus that could “harm people.”
NDP MP Charlie Angus said in the CBC report that he fully backs any legislation that would punish “people who are actually actively working to spread disinformation.”
"I think it would be reasonable to enact with the RCMP, with our security officials and some public officials, a team to monitor disinformation and have the power to shut it down so it does not interfere with the efforts of our front-line medical workers," Angus said in the CBC report.
The Privy Council works closely with the prime minister and cabinet to implement “its vision, goals, and decisions in a timely manner.” LeBlanc told the CBC that he has an interest in a similar law to stop “disinformation” in the United Kingdom that’s being advocated by British MP Damian Collins.
Collins has called for stiff punishment of those who “knowingly, willingly and at scale and maliciously spread this content.” He wants laws in place in the UK combating online disinformation potentially built around German online hate speech laws.
Angus is a supporter of a website launched by Collins called “Infotagion,” which is a site that “seeks to fight the disinformation contagion about COVID-19” using “trusted and official sources, like public health services and the World Health Organisation (WHO).” [ Really? Those are the trusted sources?]
Collins’ site, which claims to be independent, has the support of another Canadian MP, Liberal Nate Erskine.
Recently, the WHO’s credibility has come into question, with U.S. President Donald Trump yesterday telling his administration to halt funding to the organization. Trump said the WHO failed to do its “basic duty” to ensure that “accurate information about international health” was shared quickly with other nations.
LeBlanc said he has already discussed this idea with other high-ranking ministers, such as Justice Minister David Lametti. It is expected that it will take some time to draft such a law.
"Legislatures and parliaments are meeting scarcely because of the current context of the pandemic, so it’s not a quick solution, but it’s certainly something that we would be open (to) as a government," LeBlanc told the CBC.
Lisa D.S. Bildy, a lawyer for the Canada-based Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, told LifeSiteNews that when it comes to the CBC media report, “the devil is in the wiggle words, like ‘misinformation’ and ‘harm.’”
“From media reports, it seems the government is conflating concerns about fraudulent actors taking advantage of the crisis, with concerns about ‘misinformation’ being spread and causing ‘harm.’ Obviously, if someone is taking advantage of the crisis to commit fraud, they should be prosecuted,” Bildy said.
Bildy added that when so much information is not known about the virus, “even epidemiologists can’t agree on everything.”
“With the benefit of hindsight, much of what was said about the virus and the appropriate response to it, including by governments themselves, will prove to be misinformation,” Bildy said.
Bildy went on to note that governments must ensure that a citizen’s ability to communicate freely their ideas and strategies must be respected.
“Any attempt to muzzle peoples’ ability to communicate their theories, ideas, strategies or other viewpoints that go against the government’s current position is censorship and it is unconstitutional,” Bildy said.
“It also sounds like a convenient continuation of this government’s efforts to monitor and control information on the internet. People shouldn’t take advantage of a crisis to defraud others; but likewise, the government shouldn’t take advantage of a crisis to start censoring expression.”
In March, the UK government announced an online “rapid response team” in the name of combating “misinformation” about the coronavirus.
UK Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said that his government is “working with social media companies, and I’ll be pressing them this week for further action to stem the spread of falsehoods and rumours which could cost lives.”
Angus said such a law in Canada would not be a question of “free speech” but an inquiry of going after state operators or “conspiracy theorist cranks who seem to get their kicks out of creating havoc."
As it stands now, LeBlanc says Health Canada has the majority of the responsibility to monitor any “misinformation” that is being spread about the coronavirus.
In the fall 2019 Canadian federal election, pro-abortion Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who recently tried to use the coronavirus as a “totalitarian power grab,” had a committee made up to combat election “disinformation.” This committee included using Canada’s Communications Security Establishment (CSE), one of the nation’s main security and intelligence organizations responsible for foreign signals intelligence.
In early April, Minister of Canadian Heritage Steven Guilbeault announced that funding of $3 million would be distributed to various groups to counter online coronavirus misinformation.
In February, Guilbeault remarked during an interview with CTV’s Evan Solomon that online news websites should be required to be licensed, like radio and television broadcasters.
Despite backtracking from his comments, Guilbeault nevertheless was faced with a flurry of backlash that he was trying to regulate all news media in Canada. One Conservative MP said the Trudeau government’s report recommending a “media registry” for news outlets in Canada scares the “hell out of me.”
Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer told Trudeau that he was “suspicious” of the licensing proposal.
“It’s no wonder that Canadian’s are suspicious about this, this is the same Prime Minister who has admiration for China’s basic dictatorship, the same prime minister who he praised on Fidel Castro, a man who is responsible for the death of millions,” he said.
The Liberal government report is titled “Canada’s communications future: Time to act.” A part of the report called for increasing funding by a total of $1.2 billion to the state-owned and leftist Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), going as far to say the CBC has a “critical role to play” in shutting down supposed fake news websites.
The pro-abortion Trudeau government has tried to censor independent media in Canada before. In late 2019, they went against social media companies to combat “misinformation.”
JCFF lawyers sound the alarm of government overreach, holding the govt to account
The JCCF has dedicated a portion of its website to hold the government accountable during the coronavirus pandemic, ensuring that “in unprecedented times like these, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms matters more than ever.”
In a statement released April 14, the JCCF said governments must be held to account as people’s freedoms are curtailed.
“The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms requires that the response of governments to this challenge must remain rational, and commensurate with demonstrable evidence, and the checks and balances of the rule of law,” the JCFF statement read.
“The severe curtailment of civil liberties without projected timelines for their rescission, the shutdown of economic activity and resulting job losses, the increase of human suffering through confinement and restriction of liberty, and the closure of courts of justice denying citizens a ready recourse, are all factors which bear close scrutiny.”
Bildy noted that it was the Chinese Communist Party’s censorship of doctors who tried to sound the alarm that “got us into this mess in the first place.”
“If the government of Canada believes that there is misinformation being spread, they are free to use their extensive platform, including daily televised briefings, to communicate better information.”
Along with the concerns noted by the JCCF, Leslyn Lewis, a pro-life candidate who is in the running to become the next leader of the Conservative Party, stated in a Twitter message last week that “I am greatly concerned that our civil liberties are being restricted with no real plan for when they will come back. Temporary safety measures are necessary when warranted, but governments must also be seized with the urgency to restore our freedoms and should demonstrate a clear plan to restore society to a state of normalcy.”
Last week, the JCCF voiced their concern that the Canadian province of Alberta’s plan to track citizens via cell phones to “deal with” those who break quarantine is government overreach.
Trudeau said in late March that “all options are on the table” when it comes to combating the coronavirus. This includes leaving the door open to the possibility of tracking Canadians’ cell phones via a dedicated app or through one’s cell phone provider. Canada has been in a nationwide lockdown since early March, with all public schools, churches, sporting events, and sit-down restaurants, and most stores deemed non-essential, shuttered. As of today, Canada has registered under 28,205 cases with 1,007 deaths.
Trudeau said Canadians’ lives would not return to “normal” without a vaccine, which could take between 12 to 18 months.