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New Pre-Crime Laws: Real-Life “Minority Report” Coming to Canada?

Americans should NOT assume that “It can’t happen here.” The First Amendment is a constitutional tool, not a magic talisman. It can be undermined
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Earlier this month, Conor Friedersdorf, a staff writer at the Atlantic, wondered in print if Canada was becoming a real-life version of Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report (2002) where the government makes arrests for “pre-crime.” The short answer is yes. But the mindset is by no means unique to Canada. Things just happen more quickly in countries with smaller populations. He writes,

The Online Harms Act states that any person who advocates for or promotes genocide is “liable to imprisonment for life.” It defines lesser “hate crimes” as including online speech that is “likely to foment detestation or vilification” on the basis of race, religion, gender, or other protected categories. And if someone “fears” they may become a victim of a hate crime, they can go before a judge, who may summon the preemptively accused for a sort of precrime trial. If the judge finds “reasonable grounds” for the fear, the defendant must enter into “a recognizance.”

A recognizance is no mere promise to refrain from committing hate crimes. The judge may put the defendant under house arrest or electronic surveillance and order them to abstain from alcohol and drugs. Refusal to “enter the recognizance” for one year results in 12 months in prison.

Conor Friedersdorf, “Canada’s Extremist Attack on Free Speech, The Atlantic, June 6, 2024

Friedersdorf thinks it’s “madness.” But Trudeau’s Liberal government Minister of Justice Arif Virani supports it. So does the socialist New Democratic Party which holds the balance of power in the House of Commons, so it could easily pass.

Why has government control of thought and information become such a serious business in Canada?

First, most Canadian media are not in a position to kick up much of a fuss even if they oppose it. Trudeau’s Liberal government has become deeply unpopular. But, since 2018, the traditional (pre-Internet) media have owed their living in large part to him, not to readers and viewers.

As veteran newsman Jonathan Kay puts it in an article at non-government supported Quillette, “much of the parliamentary press gallery literally depends on Justin Trudeau for 35% of their salaries. The prospect of missing a mortgage payment tends to affect one’s editorial judgment.” The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) is almost all government-supported.

Will the media mercenaries help Trudeau survive the next election in October 2025, as Kay thinks they might? It’s hard to know because subsidies have not halted their decline. As he reported earlier this month:

Even before Mr Trudeau began throwing money at newspapers, the state-funded CBC had been receiving over $1 billion per year in taxpayer subsidies, even as its status and influence have waned steadily under its (comically) inept current boss, Catherine Tait. Because the CBC relies so heavily on public funds, its editors and producers evidently feel at complete liberty to ignore the tastes and interests of ordinary Canadian news consumers, and instead focus on harvesting plaudits from their own art-house cliques.

Jonathan Kay, “Journalists Shouldn’t Depend on the State for Their Wages, Quillette, June 14, 2024

Government subsidy did not halt the decline in “media welfare states” Sweden or Norway either, he notes.

Squeezing out independent media

Of course, the move to control thought and information includes a crackdown on independent media. Currently, big online alternative news provider Rebel News is suing the federal government because the government now requires a journalism licence but won’t grant Rebel a licence:

Without a licence, Rebel is banned from government press conferences and the government may order search engines to hide (downrank) Rebel results.

Disclosure: I am a Canadian citizen who writes news for a living but no longer writes for Canadian sources. Apart from the issues above, when I try to post news links from world sources to Facebook pages, Facebook advises that, due to Canadian government legislation, I am not permitted to do so. Google may follow suit there. So far, only X has set limits on what Trudeau can do in the “international waters” of the internet.

Could it happen in the United States?

Americans tend to think that the First Amendment will protect them. The reality is probably more like this: The First Amendment protects them as long as government does not wage relentless war on it. And that in turn depends on how much the public cares about the right to hear both sides.

The public will fight alone if it does care because American media now despise “both-sidesism,” just as Canadian media do. And many U.S. government figures are just as anxious to get control of the information stream as Trudeau is, as the sorry saga of the Disinformation Governance Board clearly demonstrates. The public won that one but, First Amendment or no, it is sure to be a long war.

You may also wish to read: As legacy media continue in decline, they espouse censorship more . Even as late as the turn of the millennium, media people tended to be reflexively against censorship, but then courage failed along with relevance. It won’t be long before serious proposals are floated in the United States for government to fund the media, which would make them PR for government saviors.


Denyse O'Leary

Denyse O'Leary is a freelance journalist based in Victoria, Canada. Specializing in faith and science issues, she is co-author, with neuroscientist Mario Beauregard, of The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist's Case for the Existence of the Soul; and with neurosurgeon Michael Egnor of the forthcoming The Immortal Mind: A Neurosurgeon’s Case for the Existence of the Soul (Worthy, 2025). She received her degree in honors English language and literature.

New Pre-Crime Laws: Real-Life “Minority Report” Coming to Canada?