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EDITORIAL: Blame Canada

Progressives insist that Donald Trump will turn the United States into an authoritarian state if voters return him to the White House. They should pay close attention to what’s going on north of the border, where one of their own is in charge.

Last month, the Canadian government introduced the Online Harms Act, which creates a “new legislative and regulatory framework to reduce harmful content on social media platforms,” Tech Policy.press reports. The proposal, backed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, would establish the Digital Safety Commission to monitor sites for so-called “hate speech” and content that might be harmful to children.

The fine print is a tribute to bureaucratic overreach and one of the most glaring affronts to free expression ever concocted by a Western government.

The legislation would give Canadian judges the power to issue sentences of life in prison for certain online speech violations. It permits the authorities to impose house arrest and fines if there are “reasonable grounds” to believe an individual “will commit” an offense, allowing for speculative punishment of speech crimes. The measure amends the Canadian Human Rights Act “to classify hate speech as discrimination,” the BBC reports, while empowering the Human Rights Tribunal to oversee hate speech offenses.

The act also gives “anyone the ability to file a complaint … alleging online hate speech,” Michael Taube, a Canadian columnist, wrote this week in a Wall Street Journal commentary. That will no doubt lead to a “massive influx of complaints,” one observer noted, as partisans exploit the law to harass their political enemies.

As one might expect, what constitutes “hate speech” is vaguely defined and open-ended. That alone should be cause for concern.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association piled on. The legislation, the group said, “includes overbroad violations of expressive freedom, privacy, protest rights and liberty.” It bestows “vast authority” in a new bureaucracy “to interpret the law, make up new rules, enforce them and then serve as judge, jury and executioner.” It grants the government “sweeping new search powers of electronic data with no warrant requirement.” In addition, “The broad criminal prohibitions on speech in the bill risk stifling public discourse and criminalizing political activism.”

All of this is brought to you by the progressive Mr. Trudeau and Canada’s Liberal Party. But the totalitarian sentiment underlying this Orwellian proposal also runs through the minds of many virtue-signaling U.S. activists, who consider the First Amendment a tool of oppression and long for similar criminal restrictions in this country on any utterance or posting that might offend anybody anywhere.

Mr. Trump carries plenty of baggage. But as Mr. Trudeau’s foray into aggressive state censorship reveals, many of those mewling about the former president being a “threat to democracy” have their own soft spots for tyranny.

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