The 2002 film Minority Report was a box office success and, like the Matrix franchise, emerged as one of the most talked-about movies of recent times. The crux of the film involved a “precrime” policing unit that could act to prevent crimes before they were committed, on evidence provided by a team of comatose subjects with precognitive abilities. Of course, the plot was utterly absurd, demanding major suspension of viewer disbelief, but nonetheless provocative in its social and political implications.
Though the story descends into complicated but typical melodrama — abducted child, failed marriage, false accusation, eventual resolution — resulting in the abandonment of the clairvoyant project, the idea of precrime prevention is the fanciful “hook” on which the narrative depends. It serves as the fiction within the fiction that has to be initially accepted if the film is to retain its unlikely coherence. Of course, what the film calls a “minority report” is an anomalous factor, different from the more comprehensive reports of predictive infallibility, but second sight remains the rule. Obviously, no such precognitive technology is even remotely conceivable — or so we might have thought.
Leave it to the Canadian prime minister, as many have noted, to translate the central premise of the movie into the realm of public policy. Bill C-261, currently pending before Parliament, proposes to deal with the newly formulated crime of online “hate propaganda” and “hate speech” before said crime has actually been contemplated, let alone occurred, assuming the plaintiff believes that he or she is the intended target of hate. An individual can thus be accused of a crime and made to pay the price — censure, compensatory damages, or even imprisonment — before the event has taken place.
The Bill reads in part:
A person may, with the Attorney General’s consent, lay an information before a provincial court judge if the person fears on reasonable grounds that another person will commit
(b) an offence under subsection 430(4.1); or
(c) an offence motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or any other similar factor.
The net is so broad and finely meshed that scarcely anyone, once accused, can expect to escape prosecution.
“Hate” is defined unhelpfully and imprecisely in the bill as “the emotion that involves detestation or vilification and that is stronger than dislike or disdain.” Who is to draw the line between these vague emotions? And what exactly comprises “reasonable grounds” in the bill’s formulation? “Hate speech” is defined as speech that is “likely to foment detestation or vilification of an individual or group,” always a highly subjective and arbitrary taxonomy for what constitutes “crime.” “Hate” is to be stamped out and punished before so elusive an attitude and debatable a construct can be clearly understood, fully determined, reliably detected, or merely conjectured.
Indeed, the category of “hate crime” has always been an artificial and nebulous one, all too liable to manipulation and political bias, the very epitome of regulative absurdity. But now things are even worse; it can be summoned out of thin air. The concept is nothing less than a legal figment culminating in the practice of voodoo justice. Notwithstanding, the court will render judgment on the grounds of what it considers a credible complaint before the heinous act, or thought, comes into existence. That the intention to commit such a hateful act may not even exist in the mind of the accused is a matter of no account. It must in that case surely be there as an unconscious urge. In our cutting-edge justice system, the criminal precedes the crime.
Whatever technological discovery or bio-implant the prime minister has availed himself of, or whatever mystical or visionary faculty he naturally enjoys, the fact remains that he is richly blessed with precognitive abilities and that the courts, subservient to his incalculable prescience, will duly and ritually act on his intuitive presentiments. The article of administrative precognition is only the latest in an accumulating majority of autocratic bills the prime minister has proposed or enacted, leading to the collapse of liberalism in Canada, but legislative divination is clearly the most innovative measure of the lot.
Despite the criticism that he has manfully absorbed—and dismissed—for his blatantly unconstitutional behavior, his contempt for the democratic process of legal protest, his predilection for invoking martial law on the slimmest of pretexts, and his several ethics violations, Justin Trudeau’s talent for predicting the future is a gift which few, or none, possess. It is all the more reason to congratulate ourselves in having so formidable a virtuoso, so adept a master of issuing majority reports, as our national leader. Minority Report has nothing on him.