Privy Council President Dominic LeBlanc said that he "is interested in British MP Damian Collins's call for laws to punish those responsible for spreading dangerous misinformation online about the COVID-19 pandemic". Collins' concern was that "at the outset of the pandemic much of the misinformation and disinformation in circulation was promoting fake cures for COVID-19 or offering tips on how to avoid catching it."
Canadian lawyer from Quebec, Viva Frei, laid out an effective criticism of this proposal in the you tube video below.
During civil emergencies, laws to curb important civil liberties such as speech are always offered "for the public good". We witnessed the plethora of laws in the United States following 9-11 including the Patriot Act and the NSA surveillance program (a program Canada has partnered with according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and journalist, Glen Greenwald).
As the saying attributed to Benjamin Franklin goes, "whoever would sacrifice liberty for security will soon have neither."
Aside from the issue of who decides what is "fake" information and the slippery slope towards crushing dissent is that fact that legislation is a blunt instrument to address the problem raised by Collins.
As Frei outlines below, there are ALREADY laws in the Criminal Code of Canada to prohibit much of what Collins' says is occuring - namely fraud. If somebody is trying to sell a remedy that can cure Covid - 19 or making wild and irresponsible misrepresenations, they can be charged with fraudulent misrepresentation or criminal negligence. But again, I think it is pretty obvious to see how such a law, even if applied, could be a slippery slope towards crushing scientific dissent in the public square. Nonetheless, there are mechanisms that the governement could apply to individual people making such claims.
There is no need to begin to curtail and encroach upon civil liberties. There is a very good Latin phrase that can guide both the interpretation and crafting of legislation. It comes from the canon law tradition but is applicable to civil law: Odia restringi et favores convenit ampliari. This short phrase is literally translated as whatever is odious should be restricted and whatever is favourable should be extended. It is used as a guide in the "rules of law" to mean "laws that place burdens or restrictions on people must be drafted and interpreted strictly and narrowly; and laws which grant favors or freedoms must be drafted and interpreted as generously as possible so that people can enjoy favors and freedoms."
This is an effective guide. Laws that restrict individual liberty and freedom (including laws on speech) must be narrowly and strictly interpreted to only prohibit specific behaviour. But laws or charters such as the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (which is more of an acknowledgement of human dignity and the inherent right of people rather than a law "granting" civil liberty but that distinction can be for another post) must be interpreted generously and broadly.