Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre has voiced strong opposition to the Liberal government’s proposed Online Harms Act, asserting that robust criminal laws are the key to protecting children rather than censoring opinions.

Poilievre pledged to bolster criminal law and enforcement measures to ensure the well-being of children. 

The Conservative leader’s remarks come in response to the unveiling of the Online Harms Act, also known as Bill C-63, by the Liberal government, which aims to combat what it terms “online hate” through stringent penalties, including hefty fines and the possibility of life imprisonment for hate crimes.

“Common sense Conservatives believe that we should criminalize and enforce laws against: sexually victimizing a child or revictimizing a survivor online; bullying a child online; inducing a child to harm themselves or inciting violence. Criminal bans on intimate content communicated without consent, including deepfakes, must be enforced and expanded,” said Poilievre in a statement. 

“We believe that these serious acts should be criminalized, investigated by police, tried in court and punished with jail, not pushed off to new bureaucracy that does nothing to prevent crimes and provides no justice to victims.”

The Liberal government’s Online Harms Act, unveiled by Justice Minister Arif Virani, targets a range of harmful content, including materials that incite violent extremism, promote violence, or foment hatred. 

The proposed legislation includes amendments to the Criminal Code aimed at enhancing the prosecution of hate crimes including maximum sentences of life imprisonment.

Under the provisions of the bill, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal would have the authority to impose fines of up to $70,000 and issue takedown orders for content deemed to violate the government’s definition of hatred. This includes payments of up to $20,000 to victims of online hate and up to $50,0000 for the government.

“We do not believe that the government should be banning opinions that contradict the Prime Minister’s radical ideology,” said Poilievre.

“Common sense Conservatives will protect our kids and punish criminals instead of creating more bureaucracy and censoring opinions.”