Breadcrumb trail

April 5, 2024

Are we ready to protect Canadians exposed to online hate and violence?

As Federal Ombudsperson for Victims of Crime, I witness firsthand the urgent need for action to protect Canadians online. This is a difficult area to propose legislation, and I commend the government for introducing the Online Harms Act (Bill C-63).

Freedom of expression is a fundamental right in our democracy. And, we need better tools to ensure people of all ages can use the internet safely. Bill C-63 proposes mechanisms to offer Canadians more power over what they are exposed to online, make corporations responsible to reduce harmful content shared through their platforms, and help people when they are violated or victimized by hate online.

Any proposal to tackle these issues will be scrutinized because of the value we place on our privacy and freedom. Finding our way forward will require collaboration, careful consideration of fundamental rights, and robust oversight mechanisms.

Our Office has been calling for Government leadership to address child sexual abuse images online since we released our 2009 special report Every Image, Every Child. More recently, we have witnessed the growing impact of hate-motivated offences across the country. People communicate things online that would not be permissible in person, such as graphic and racially targeted death threats.

There is consensus on the need for action to stop child sexual exploitation online, which is encouraging. There seems to be less momentum to address hate, even though the people who are targeted and the communities they represent are painfully aware of the need for greater protection online.

Tackling these issues is difficult. While we try to find solutions, children continue to be exploited online. Some young people targeted by hate or sextortion are dying by suicide.

I urge all of Canada’s elected and appointed officials to collaborate. The cost of inaction is high.