On March 8, 2017 Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, introduced legislation that would remove or amend provisions of the Criminal Code “that have been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada and appellate courts and have no force in law.”
Abortion – The prohibition against abortion was found unconstitutional in 1988 because it violated a woman’s right to security of the person.
Two provisions applicable to murder – In 1987 and 1990, the Supreme Court found that two provisions relating to the circumstances constituting murder were unconstitutional. The provisions violated the right to life, liberty and security of the person because they could have led to a murder conviction even if the accused had no knowledge or intent that someone would be killed.
Anal intercourse – Several appellate courts found that the anal intercourse offence violated equality rights because it treated consensual anal intercourse differently than other consensual sexual activities. A legislative proposal to repeal the offence of anal intercourse was introduced in Bill C-32 in November 2016. Those proposed amendments are included in this bill to enable Parliament to address similar issues at the same time.
Spreading false news – This broad offence has its origins dating back to 13th century England and was “intended to protect the mighty and the powerful from discord and slander.” It was found unconstitutional in 1992 because it violated freedom of expression.
Vagrancy – The “loitering” part of this offence was found unconstitutional in 1994 because it violated the right to life, liberty and security of the person.
Impaired driving – In 2012, two provisions designed to help prosecutors prove that someone was impaired were found unconstitutional because they could have led to convictions even in cases where there was reasonable doubt about the accused person’s guilt.
Credit for pre-sentencing custody – The provision prevented judges from giving enhanced credit to a convicted person who had been detained prior to sentencing due to a previous conviction. It was found unconstitutional in 2016 because it violated the right to life, liberty and security of the person.
Trudeau committed to lower the age of consent for homosexuals
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau committed to amend the Criminal Code in order to lower the age of consent for homosexuals by two years to 16. When asked in a recent interview to Daily Xtra whether the federal government intends to equalize the age of consent difference between vaginal and anal sex, Trudeau said: “That is something that we’re very much looking forward to moving on in short order.”
The age of consent for vaginal sexual activity is 16 years. It was raised from 14 years on May 1, 2008 by the Tackling Violent Crime Act. Section 159 of the Criminal Code determines the age of consent for anal intercourse at 18.
Federal government to counter the spread of “fake news”
“What role can government play to support credible sources and counter the fake news phenomenon?”, Mélanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage, tweeted on January 23, 2017.
In an interview with La Presse, Jolie revealed her plan to launch a dialogue with Facebook and Google over their responsibility as vehicles to spread information worldwide. “It is time to show a governmental leadership in order to present the perspective of the people of a democratic state,” said (originally in French) Minister Joly who recently participated in a panel in Davos, Switzerland, on fake news.
Quartz reported that following the discussions in Davos, the World Economic Forum (WEF) is set to continue the conversations through its Global Future Council on Human Rights to examine how large internet companies deal with privacy and free speech and explore ways to limit the spread of misinformation, political propaganda, and extremist content online.
“The Shattered Mirror”, a study released on January 26, 2017 by the Public Policy Forum, suggests that the news industry in Canada is reaching a crisis point in light of the decline of traditional media, fragmentation of audiences and the rise of fake news which are described as “a growing threat to the health of our democracy.”
The study “ investigates the major shifts and disruptors in news and journalism – the broken business model, under-development of digital-only news providers and consolidation of digital distribution revenues by Google and Facebook.”
It includes recommended measures to strengthen the economic sustainability of news media and to promote civicfunction journalism and digital. The following are the 12 recommendations of the study:
- Enhance Section 19 and 19.1 of the Income Tax Act to support civic-function journalism in Canada, whether by incentivizing Canada-centred news organizations to do more reporting or, for those that don’t, creating a revenue stream to support a Future of Journalism & Democracy Fund.
- Extend GST/HST to all digital news subscriptionand advertising revenue for companies not qualifying under new Section 19 criteria. Rebate GST/HST for those that do qualify.
- Remove obstacles to philanthropic financing.
- Review the Copyright Act’s fairdealing rules to strengthen rights of news originators to control their intellectual property.
- Create a Future of Journalism & Democracy Fund.
- A legal advisory service for investigative/accountability journalism.
- Establish a local mandate for The Canadian Press.
- Establish an Indigenous journalism initiative in keeping with a new era of reconciliation, self-government and nation-to-nation relations.
- Establish a research institute dedicated to the study of news and democracy.
- Bolster the ‘inform’ imperative in the CBC mandate to “enhance the base layer of reliable news to inform Canada’s citizenry.”
- Financing for CBC online by “free[ing] cbc.ca of the need to “attract eyeballs” for digital advertising, which can run contrary to its civic-function mission and draw it into a “clickbait” mentality.”
- Encourage a digital-age approach to public broadcasting.
To read the study click HERE.