Canadian MPs Want Age Verification in Online Harms Bill

OTTAWA—Members of the Canadian Parliament are pressing for age verification provisions to be added to the Online Harms Bill, C-63, introduced by the government.

The regionalist Bloc Québécois party disclosed to The Globe and Mail that it intends to introduce an amendment to C-63 to ensure people 18 years or older must confirm their identification in order to access pornographic material.

Rhéal Éloi Fortin MP, of Québec, the party's chief critic of the Canadian Department of Justice, told the Ottawa newspaper that he is surprised that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government neglected to add age verification language to the Online Harms Bill.

Trudeau's government said it would present its own age verification proposal to counter a proposal like Bill S-210, which was introduced by Sen. Julie Miville-Dechêne, also of Québec, and has been stalled since December.

The Online Harms Bill requires "age-appropriate" design features for websites, but not verification of a user's age. In addition, it requires platforms to take down child sexual abuse materials within 24 hours of reporting, among other trust and safety overhauls.

For Fortin, this isn't enough. But Trudeau's government has been critical of the age verification methods proposed in S-210. 

During a press conference on Cape Breton in Nova Scotia in February, Trudeau said that “adults [shouldn't] have to give their ID and personal information to sketchy websites, or create a digital ID ... to be able to browse the web where they want."

Justice Minister Arif Virani told MPs in the House of Commons recently that "the idea of uploading and the age-verification measure, such as one’s government ID, is something that has been roundly criticized, including by people like law enforcement who’d be concerned about what that kind of privacy disclosure would do in terms of perpetuating financial crimes against Canadians," reports The Globe and Mail.

Conservative Party leader Pierre Poilievre has also criticized Trudeau's government, calling for a unified opposition front to implement age verification laws.

The Québec-based Aylo, the parent company of Pornhub, and its ownership group, Ethical Capital Partners, recently came out in support of age-appropriate design strategies such as all mobile devices being opt-out of parental controls, not opt-in