Four members of a minority party in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario introduced a bill on April 4 that would create temporary community safety zones around drag performance venues to prevent “acts of intimidation.” But online posts misleadingly claimed Canada has already passed a law that “made it illegal to protest against” the LGBTQ+ community.
In an effort to increase legal protections for members of the LGBTQ+ community and drag artists, Kristyn Wong-Tam and three other members of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario introduced the 2SLGBTQI+ Community Safety Zones Act on April 4.
All four lawmakers are members of the left-leaning New Democratic Party of Ontario, which holds 30 of the 124 seats in the Legislative Assembly. The Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario holds 81 seats.
If adopted as law, this legislation would enable the Ontario attorney general to “designate a place where 2SLGBTQI+ persons gather as a 2SLGBTQI+ community safety zone for a specified period of time.” While this designation would remain in place, it would be illegal to commit “act[s] of intimidation” within 100 meters of the established boundary.
The bill defines an act of intimidation as “causing a disturbance” or “distributing hate propaganda” as outlined by the Canadian Criminal Code. An act of intimidation could also include “uttering threats or making offensive remarks, either verbally or in writing, with respect to matters of social orientation or gender roles” or “engaging in a protest or demonstration for the purpose of furthering the objectives of homophobia and transphobia.”
When establishing a community safety zone, the attorney general would be required to publicize its location and duration of function. Individuals found guilty of violating these community safety zone guidelines would be subject to fines of “not more than $25,000.”
The bill also states that “nothing in this Act prevents peaceful protests or demonstrations.”
But social media users misrepresented the bill’s content and status, using a clip from the April 4 press conference introducing the bill to inaccurately claim Canada has outlawed protest against the LGBTQ+ community.
Another conservative commentator, David J. Harris Jr., echoed the claims in a Facebook post: “And keep this in mind, Canada just made it illegal to protest against the alphabet gang.”
However, as we’ve explained, this bill has not become law. And it does not call for an outright ban on all protests against LGBTQ+ communities across Ontario or Canada.
Christopher Cochrane, an associate professor of political science at the University of Toronto, told us in an email that the 2SLGBTQI+ Community Safety Zones Act is a private members’ public bill, or private members’ bill. These are bills that can address “any topic” within a province’s jurisdiction, as long as it does not “impose a tax or specifically direct the allocation of public funds.”
In order for a private members’ bill in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to become a law, it must complete First Reading, Second Reading, Third Reading and Royal Assent. During First Reading, the bill’s purpose is explained. Debate does not start until Second Reading, and the House determines whether to pass the bill during the motion for Third Reading, after which the bill must be subsequently granted by the lieutenant governor in a constitutionally required procedure known as Royal Assent.
“Generally speaking, private [members’] bills do not become law, though there are notable exceptions,” Cochrane explained. “This is not always because they are voted down, but because the private [members] lack sufficient control of the legislature to ensure their bill passes all the requisite stages before the end of the parliamentary session, in which case it is said to have ‘died on the floor.’ Given the control a majority government exercises over the legislative agenda, they can prevent a bill from becoming law without voting against it.”
That said, according to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario: “Even when they are not passed, [private members’ bills] bring matters that concern private members, their constituencies or their parties to the attention of the House, the Ministries, the media, and the public. They may have an impact on government policy or influence policy directions a future government might take.”
As of now, however, Canada has not “made it illegal to protest against” the LGBTQ+ community, contrary to social media posts.
Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here. Facebook has no control over our editorial content.
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