Last week’s House of Commons copyright debate on Bill C-11 included a curious comment from Industry Minister Christian Paradis, who, in trying to demonstrate the amount of debate that went into the bill, stated that “more than 10,000 consultations have been held across Canada.” The “10,000 consultations” claim made it onto the Hill Times front page article on the bill titled “House Set to Pass Controversial Copyright Bill Next Week, After 10,000 Consultations.”
The problem with the “10,000 consultations” claim is that it isn’t entirely accurate. Paradis is likely combining the total responses to the 2009 copyright consultation (just over 8,300) with submissions or witnesses to the Bill C-32/C-11 legislative committees (roughly 300). Throw in the two town hall meetings and private meetings with stakeholders and you might come close to 10,000. However, if Paradis is relying on comments and submissions from the public to the government, the 10,000 figure massively understates the public response. During the same debate, Liberal MP Geoff Regan indicated that his office received over 80,000 emailed submissions over the past several months alone. Three weeks after the introduction of Bill C-61, Industry Canada received tens of thousands of actual letters. When you combine the additional MP meetings, thousands of letters and emails to MPs, the number of submissions on this copyright bill is at least 10 times the Paradis estimate.
More relevant is the content of those submissions. As part of the 2009 copyright consultation, opposition to the digital lock approach found in Bill C-61 was the number one issue, yet the government rejected the views of thousands of Canadians who called for a more balanced, flexible approach. Similarly, the Bill C-32/C-11 committee consistently heard from business groups, creator associations, consumer groups, and education representatives, who all opposed the digital lock approach in the bill. More recently, Regan told the House of Commons that the most of the 80,000 emailed submissions also opposed the digital lock approach.
Given the consistent opposition to the digital lock approach, both the NDP and Liberals proposed numerous amendments to the digital lock rules, all of which were defeated. Those were followed by further digital lock amendments proposed by the Green Party’s Elizabeth May, which were also defeated.
Paradis and Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore (who in the same Hill Times article is quoted as inaccurately saying that Canadian copyright has not been changed for 22 years) may point to the large number of Canadians that participated in the copyright debate over the past few years, but it is more accurate to acknowledge the large number of Canadians whose views the government rejected in adopting a digital lock approach in which the voice of one consultation – that with the United States – proved more influential than anything tens of thousands of Canadians had to say.