New pre-crime laws: real-life 'Minority Report' coming to Canada?

Denyse O'Leary

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.

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