(Ottawa) Canadian Justice Minister Arif Virani says it will take “some time” to create a new regulatory structure to force “web giants” to better protect Canadians from harm online .

Arif Virani’s comments come as the Conservative opposition criticizes the Liberal government’s intention to create a new regulatory structure as part of its Online Harms Bill. The conservatives only see it as a heavy bureaucratic apparatus.

The bill then proposes to create a “digital security ombudsman,” to whom Canadians could raise concerns.

Finally, the government wants to create a “digital security office”, whose mission would be to support the digital security commission and the ombudsman “in the accomplishment of their respective missions”.

Minister Virani said on Tuesday that the government always knew that creating a new regulatory structure would take some time.

But he argues that the bill’s changes to the Criminal Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act could come into force more quickly once the piece of legislation passes Parliament.

These changes “target the specific levels of division and hatred that we see in Canadian society,” he said.

Civil society organizations and legal experts are criticizing some of the proposed provisions, including tougher penalties for online hate crimes, saying the changes risk curbing freedom of expression in Canada.

During debate on the bill last week, Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner raised concerns about the timeline.

“Even if the bill is rushed through, the regulatory process would not take place before the next election,” she told the House of Commons last Friday.

Ms. Rempel Garner asked the Parliamentary Budget Officer to analyze how much it would cost to set up these entities.

In response to these concerns, Mr Virani said the government had always known that creating a new regulatory body would take some time.

Experts who consulted the government on an online harm regime signed an open letter last fall calling for the introduction of a bill after repeated promises from the Liberals.

The letter warned that Canadian children received less protection than those in, among others, the United Kingdom and Australia, which regulate platforms for the content they host.

When Virani introduced the bill earlier this year, he defended the time it took, saying it was necessary to strike the right balance between protecting Canadians from harm and respecting the law to freedom of expression.

Experts had sounded the alarm over a proposal put forward by the government in 2021 that would have potentially required companies to remove content within 24 hours.

They warned that this risks platforms removing legal content and violating freedom of expression.

These criticisms sent the Liberals back to the drawing board.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau first promised such legislation during the 2019 election campaign.

The issue gained momentum last October when police, as well as Jewish and Muslim rights groups, reported a sharp increase in violent incidents and hate speech online since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas.