The Liberals’ Internet Censorship Bill Is Back, and It’s More Concerning Than Ever

Commentary  So far, no one has offered a better description of the federal government’s efforts to control the internet than Charlie Angus. Calling last fall for regulation that addressed the use of algorithms by social media platforms such as Facebook, the veteran NDP MP called Bill C-10 a “political dumpster fire” that gave an ill-equipped Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) authority over the entire global internet. The Trudeau government first introduced Bill C-10 in November of 2020. It trudged through the Parliamentary process until last spring when people realized the appalling impact it had on free speech. At the time, I described it in an interview with National Post reporter Anja Karadeglija as legislation that “doesn’t just infringe on free expression, it constitutes a full-blown assault upon it and, through it, the foundations of democracy.” Civil liberties experts agreed. Steven Guilbeault, then Heritage Minister, appeared not to fully understand the file but nevertheless attempted to reassure Canadians that their freedom was not at risk and that his goal was just to get “money from web giants” to fund CRTC- and government-approved Canadian content. His lack of persuasion was best illustrated by the comments of New Brunswick Senator David Richards (a Trudeau appointee). “I don’t think this bill needs amendments. I think, however, it needs a stake through the heart,” said Richards, who is a Giller Prize-winning author. “I will always and forever stand against any bill that subjects freedom of expression to the doldrums of government oversight.” Richards was joined by other Senators—notably Pamela Wallin and Paul Simons—in expressing serious concerns about C-10. Meanwhile, when the 2021 election was called, the legislation died on the order paper. But now, it’s back. Three important things have changed. One is that the Department of Heritage is now led by Minister Pablo Rodriguez. Another is that the updated version attempts to direct the CRTC to focus on what is vaguely described as professional content. Third, is that Bill C-10 is now called Bill C-11. What hasn’t changed is the vast powers it grants to the CRTC, the extent to which its fuzzy definitions are left up to the regulator, the threat it poses to free speech, the possibility of violating trade agreements, and the devastating impact it will quickly have on the 100,000 Canadians creating and making a living from content on vehicles such as YouTube. The government, however, is more interested in its own fortunes than those of Canada’s YouTubers and TikTokers. Bill C-11 exists to please the certified/approved Canadian content industry that has evolved over the past 40 years through a series of government-controlled funds. Particularly influential in Montreal, that group has resisted adaptation to the internet and lobbied for more than 20 years for the internet to be treated as the new cable. Which, as anyone at all familiar with the 21st century knows, it is not. Never mind that over the past decade the advent of online streaming has created the greatest period of prosperity in the history of the Canadian film and television industry. In terms of jobs and investment, life has never been better. But those firmly vested in the CRTC system setup based on cable television find this level of change alarming. Having failed for more than two decades to convince a series of ministers—including Melanie Joly—and the CRTC that the internet should be regulated to ensure their entitlement, they finally found a willing dance partner in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Cabinet ministers may be responsible for delivering legislation but all reports indicate the political staff in the Prime Minister’s Office make all the decisions. Bill C-10 is not aimed therefore at creating good public policy: its goal is to satisfy a lobby group believed capable of assuring political advantage in Quebec, where cultural protectionism has been a priority for 250 years. The outcome is legislation that essentially tries to take the global internet of 2022, rope it, hog-tie it and stuff it into a regulatory barn built for 1985. Six years in, there is no evidence this government has any interest in developing a serious internet policy regarding how Canada can use this amazing technological development to its global advantage. Nor has it elevated the urgency of access to affordable high-speed internet or the need to address the outrageously high cost of mobile devices in this country. Instead, for cheap, partisan political advantage, it is prepared to crush the entrepreneurship of tens of thousands of Canadian creators, grant sovereignty over the infinity of the internet to an unqualified and non-transparent regulatory body, and control how citizens may use it and express themselves through it. Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times. Follo

The Liberals’ Internet Censorship Bill Is Back, and It’s More Concerning Than Ever

Commentary 

So far, no one has offered a better description of the federal government’s efforts to control the internet than Charlie Angus.

Calling last fall for regulation that addressed the use of algorithms by social media platforms such as Facebook, the veteran NDP MP called Bill C-10 a “political dumpster fire” that gave an ill-equipped Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) authority over the entire global internet.

The Trudeau government first introduced Bill C-10 in November of 2020. It trudged through the Parliamentary process until last spring when people realized the appalling impact it had on free speech. At the time, I described it in an interview with National Post reporter Anja Karadeglija as legislation that “doesn’t just infringe on free expression, it constitutes a full-blown assault upon it and, through it, the foundations of democracy.” Civil liberties experts agreed.

Steven Guilbeault, then Heritage Minister, appeared not to fully understand the file but nevertheless attempted to reassure Canadians that their freedom was not at risk and that his goal was just to get “money from web giants” to fund CRTC- and government-approved Canadian content.

His lack of persuasion was best illustrated by the comments of New Brunswick Senator David Richards (a Trudeau appointee).

“I don’t think this bill needs amendments. I think, however, it needs a stake through the heart,” said Richards, who is a Giller Prize-winning author. “I will always and forever stand against any bill that subjects freedom of expression to the doldrums of government oversight.”

Richards was joined by other Senators—notably Pamela Wallin and Paul Simons—in expressing serious concerns about C-10. Meanwhile, when the 2021 election was called, the legislation died on the order paper.

But now, it’s back.

Three important things have changed. One is that the Department of Heritage is now led by Minister Pablo Rodriguez. Another is that the updated version attempts to direct the CRTC to focus on what is vaguely described as professional content. Third, is that Bill C-10 is now called Bill C-11.

What hasn’t changed is the vast powers it grants to the CRTC, the extent to which its fuzzy definitions are left up to the regulator, the threat it poses to free speech, the possibility of violating trade agreements, and the devastating impact it will quickly have on the 100,000 Canadians creating and making a living from content on vehicles such as YouTube.

The government, however, is more interested in its own fortunes than those of Canada’s YouTubers and TikTokers.

Bill C-11 exists to please the certified/approved Canadian content industry that has evolved over the past 40 years through a series of government-controlled funds. Particularly influential in Montreal, that group has resisted adaptation to the internet and lobbied for more than 20 years for the internet to be treated as the new cable. Which, as anyone at all familiar with the 21st century knows, it is not.

Never mind that over the past decade the advent of online streaming has created the greatest period of prosperity in the history of the Canadian film and television industry. In terms of jobs and investment, life has never been better.

But those firmly vested in the CRTC system setup based on cable television find this level of change alarming. Having failed for more than two decades to convince a series of ministers—including Melanie Joly—and the CRTC that the internet should be regulated to ensure their entitlement, they finally found a willing dance partner in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Cabinet ministers may be responsible for delivering legislation but all reports indicate the political staff in the Prime Minister’s Office make all the decisions. Bill C-10 is not aimed therefore at creating good public policy: its goal is to satisfy a lobby group believed capable of assuring political advantage in Quebec, where cultural protectionism has been a priority for 250 years.

The outcome is legislation that essentially tries to take the global internet of 2022, rope it, hog-tie it and stuff it into a regulatory barn built for 1985.

Six years in, there is no evidence this government has any interest in developing a serious internet policy regarding how Canada can use this amazing technological development to its global advantage. Nor has it elevated the urgency of access to affordable high-speed internet or the need to address the outrageously high cost of mobile devices in this country.

Instead, for cheap, partisan political advantage, it is prepared to crush the entrepreneurship of tens of thousands of Canadian creators, grant sovereignty over the infinity of the internet to an unqualified and non-transparent regulatory body, and control how citizens may use it and express themselves through it.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Peter Menzies

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Peter Menzies is a senior fellow with the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, an award winning journalist, and former vice-chair of the CRTC.