Sidebar: The powerful Digital Safety Commission

The Online Harm Act’s proposed Digital Safety Commission — whose members would be full-time government employees with renewable terms of up to five years — would have extensive powers.

It would be able to summon and enforce the appearance of persons, and compel them to give oral or written evidence under oath and to produce any documents or other things that the Commission considers necessary, and would receive and accept any evidence or other information, whether under oath, by affidavit or otherwise, that the Commission sees fit, whether or not it would be admissible in a regular Canadian court of law.

Hearings can be held in private if it is in the interest of victims of harmful conduct or national security.

Commission inspectors can enter any place where they have reasonable grounds to believe there is a relevant document or other thing, to verify compliance with the Online Harms Act.

“Entering” includes the ability to access a place remotely by telecommunications. However, that can only be done with the knowledge of the owner or person in charge of the place. And the inspector can’t have remote access for longer than necessary.

Not only can the inspector copy a document, they can also use any computer system to examine any document or information.

If the inspector wants to enter a dwelling, it can only be done with the occupant’s consent or a court order issued by a justice of the peace.

Penalties for violating the act or a Commission order:
— for persons, the maximum penalty they could face would be up to 6 per cent of their gross global revenue or $10 million, whichever is greater;

— for a service operator that ignores an order or makes a false or misleading statement to the Commission, on conviction by indictment faces a fine of up to 8 per cent of the firm’s gross global revenue or $25 million, whichever is greater. If convicted of a summary offence, the fine would be not more than 7 per cent of the operator’s gross global revenue or $20 million, whichever is greater.

Note that a person cannot be found guilty of an offence if they can show they exercised due diligence in trying to prevent an offence.

The Commission’s chair would be named by the government with the approval of both houses of Parliament.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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