Government of Canada announces expert advisory group on online safety

Government of Canada announces expert advisory group on online safety

With Canadians spending more time on social media to connect and share information, it has become easier for us to be exposed to harmful content online. While online platforms play a central role in the lives of Canadians, bringing many benefits to society, they can also be used as tools to cause real and significant harm to individuals, communities and our country. The Government of Canada is committed to a digital society that creates safe and respectful spaces online and protects Canadians’ freedom of expression.

Today, 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 to provide advice on a legislative and regulatory framework that best addresses 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 work of the expert advisory group will be open and transparent. 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 this important issue that affects us all.

Quotes

“Canadians should be able to express themselves freely and openly without fear of harm online. We conducted a consultation last year and released the What We Heard Report earlier this year. 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. 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.”

—Pablo Rodriguez, Minister of Canadian Heritage

“Too many people and communities are victimized by harmful online content that is often amplified and spread through social media platforms and other online services. The Government of Canada believes that Canadians should have protection from harmful online content, while respecting freedom of expression. The creation of the expert advisory group on online safety shows our commitment to taking meaningful action to make our online environment safer and more inclusive for all Canadians.”

—David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Quick facts

  • Harmful content, such as hate speech, sexual exploitation of children and incitement to violence, is published online every day. There are no broad regulatory requirements in Canada that apply to platforms regarding their responsibilities in relation to such content.
  • As outlined in the 2021 Speech from the Throne, the Government of Canada is committed to fighting serious forms of harmful content online to protect Canadians and hold social media platforms and other online services accountable for the content they host.
  • On July 29, 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. Details are available in the technical paper
  • The release of What We Heard: The Government’s proposed approach to address harmful content online is based on 422 unique responses and 8,796 individual submissions. This was an important step in identifying gaps in order to develop a regulatory framework to address the issue of harmful content online in the near future.
  • Some facts and figures on online violence in Canada:
    • 62% of Canadians think there should be more regulation of online hate speech;
    • 58% of women in Canada have been victims of violence online;
    • 80% of Canadians support requirements to remove racist or hateful content within 24 hours;
    • 1 in 5 Canadians have experienced some form of online hate;
    • Racialized Canadians are almost three times more likely to have experienced harmful behavior online;
    • 1,106% increase in online child sexual exploitation reports received by the RCMP National Child Exploitation Crime Centre between 2014 to 2019.

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