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Quebec Takes on the Internet: Government Announces Plans to Require Website Blocking & Studies New Internet Access Tax

The Government of Quebec released its budget yesterday featuring two Internet-related measures that are sure to attract attention and possible litigation. First, it is moving forward with plans to study a new tax on residential Internet services in order to provide support for the cultural sector. The study was recommended by the Quebec Taxation Review Committee, which is looking for new sources of revenue to support the movie, music, and book publishing industries. There are no further details on how much an ISP tax would be, though the plan would increase Internet access costs at the very time that governments are concerned with improving affordability.

Second, the government says it will be introducing a new law requiring ISPs to block access to online gambling sites. The list of blocked sites will be developed by Loto-Quebec, a government agency. The budget states:

A legislative amendment will be proposed to introduce an illegal website filtering measure. In accordance with this measure, Internet service providers will not be allowed to provide access to an online gaming and gambling website whose name is on a list of websites that are to be blocked, drawn up by Loto-Québec. This measure will be applied by the Régie des alcools, des courses et des jeux, which should have the necessary resources to fulfil its new responsibilities.

The government views this as a revenue enhancing measure because it wants to channel gamblers to its own Espacejeux, the Loto-Quebec run online gaming site. A November 2014 report found that Espacejeux was not meeting revenue targets since people were using other sites. It believes that the website blocking will increase government revenues by $13.5 million in 2016-17 and $27 million per year thereafter.

This is a remarkable and possibly illegal plan as the government seeks to censor the Internet for its own commercial gain. The plan would likely face a legal challenge, both on free speech and jurisdictional grounds, since the telecommunication regulations fall within federal jurisdiction (Quebec will counter that provinces are empowered to regulate gambling and consumer protection).

More importantly, website blocking in Canada has been exceedingly rare. Canadian Internet providers block access to some child pornography images under the Cleanfeed Canada initiative, but the blocking is not legislatively mandated and involves images that are illegal to access. Online gambling sites are not illegal to view and to legislate blocking for commercial gain sets a dangerous Canadian precedent. In fact, once blocking gaming and gambling sites is established, it is easy to envision the government requiring blocking of sites that are alleged to infringe copyright or blocking e-commerce sites that are not bilingual or do not pay provincial taxes.


  1. Lisa Lynch says:

    The Quebec government already blocks non bilingual eccommerce sites if the merchant has a physical presence in the province- it happened to Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie and others.

    • No they don’t, I can access Urban Outfitters from my home in Gatineau.

      Having said that, the language police does go to ridiculous extends to make sure there is bilingual representation and do impose fines on retailers with physical presence in the province

      While I also disagree with the zealous applied by the language police it’s important not to confuse the 2 items here.

      Currently the government does not block anyone’s website as it’s now proposed

      • Actually, Urban Outfitters was offline for quite a while until they got a French part of the site up and running.
        As a web developer located in Quebec, I am very aware that the OLF can and does fine owners of sites offering goods and services within the province that do not have a French component. Several of my clients have been contacted by the OLF due to this very thing.
        So, Quebec is going to increase the cost of being online, at a time when, according to a recent poll by Ipsos Reid, 86 per cent of Canadians, including those over 55 (90%) and those caring for a parent over 65 (87%), agree that providing better access to the Internet, along with training on how to use it, would help older Canadians stay better connected to their communities and families (you can read about it on the CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority ) website here:
        Make it more expensive for senoirs on fixed incomes to get online? Way to look to the future, Quebec.

    • Dominique Savoie says:

      No they don’t. Quebec does not currently do any censorship of websites. The french language office will however fine companies that has a physical presence in Quebec if their websites do not have a french version.

      This censorship would be a problem for, not only what Mr. Geist said but also this would be based on a blacklist and blacklists have a tendency of growing exponentially and become unmanagable quickly. This also could create a bad precendent and a slipery slope, because it is easy to go from blocking gambling websites to block websites of political opponents (for instance the student associations or worker unions or political parties).

      • Due to the Charter of the French Language, we are Unable to offer our website to the province of Quebec, at this time. Urban Outfitters continued to Improve it icts availability globally, and we Will Be Investigating the addition of a bilingual website to Accommodate our French-speaking customers.

    • I will never get over how bad the media control is in QC, you get sheeplike idiots who never left the place saying ‘no it doesn’t’ and ‘that never happens’ to pretty much every real, horrible, illegal, repressive cultural thing, from website repression to people getting refused medical service from emergency medical staff in english from xenophobic yet bilingual staff, people getting turned away at poling stations because of language, lies in schoolbooks, racist abusive attacks on non francophones, doesn’t matter how much it pops up, the most uneducated and unaffected will watch QC only news owned by separatist politicians paid by the mob and are always obediently ready to say ‘that never happened’, but myths about the possibility of being slighted by anyone else will dominate the bloody news and everyone is sick of poorly trained clowns running QC into the ground with help from their mafia friends while they tell everyone it must be some other cultures fault and to keep looking outside instead of in. This is a blatant illegal mob ploy for money where QC once again wants to whitewash human rights while using culture as an excuse for illegal financial wrangling. Hello.

  2. It sounds to me like the Quebec government is trying to use legislation to crush its online competition.

    • That’s exactly what they are trying to do. And if this initiative passes it will be a gateway to other blocking and taxing. This is absolutely horrible.

    • Any other site but Loto-Quebec’s Espace Jeu is illégal. They never were able to shut them down as servers are abroad. Blocking accès is the only logical way. Only goverment runned gambling is légal in Quebec.

  3. Devil's Advocate says:

    It’s unreal how the ideas of “internet taxation” and website blocking continue to be regurgitated. Both concepts are not only morally bankrupt, but also impossible to actually implement.

    No surprise to see the “movie, music and publishing industries” as part of their motivations for doing this. (Well, at least they’re coming out and saying it now, in contrast to the past,)

    • The good news is now we not only know exactly which politicians are morally bankrupt, but we also have a convenient on-line intelligence test for them.

      Regarding the “movie, music and publishing industries” being involved, it seems they are part of most all attacks on free speech. In this case I doubt that any of the money would go to the creative artists who wrote most of the open source code which their platform is riding on – a clear sign that they don’t actually respect culture and art.

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  5. 1) Why don’t they tax the movie, music, and book publishing industries to provide affordable Internet to all?

    2) Blocking the competition’s web sites will simply teach people how to use VPNs and increase the revenues of VPN companies, most of which reside outside Québec. So great idea, send even more money out of the province.

    Politicians can be sooo out of touch with reality.

  6. Re blocking access to online gambling sites: guess the 3rd measure to soon appear will be banning VPNs.

    • There won’t even have to be international agreement on motivations either. But yes, what else should we expect from a closing Internet?

    • Captain555 says:

      That would be absolutely impossible to do. Technically it cannot be done.

  7. Brad Carman says:

    Website blocking has been implemented before, though at the corporate level. See the Telus labor dispute ten years ago:

    As for Quebec, leave it to the big government types to try to solve their revenue issues and excuse this type of redirecting behavior with China-like tactics.

  8. Once again, politicians think we all need to live inside a bubble and the rest of the planet doesn’t exist.

    What about my rights to gamble in crypto-currencies? Loto-Québec will never have gambling that deal with fractions of cents, there’s not enough profit for them in allowing that.

    What about my rights as a bilingual Canadian? I’m being punished because I can speak both french and english?

    Internet access is not a media, it’s a communication medium.

    If the arts can’t survive without taxing something else, they should either let the arts die out or thinking about taxing all the medias to support each other instead. Tax television, newspapers, movies, TV shows, books, music.

  9. My ancestors have been here, in Quebec, since 1630. Part of the Patrimonial of this Province, I am proud to be Quebecker. Having said that, I am really tired and sicken to see how Xenophobic and restrictive the province is becoming. It seems to me like the people in power are screwing this place up and setting it up for sale upon taxation and restriction.

    After travelling the world, I realize that all those restriction render the Province and the country stale and immobile. There are no progress and no leap forward.

    I guess it’s time to end a 4 century legacy and move out from this place.

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  14. Requiring a french version alongside their english internet presence for local businesses should be just good business sense. Quebec is a french majority province, the only one in Canada or the american continent. While some may view this requirement as restrictive it is certainly not xenophobic.

    • Wendy Ramsey says:

      OMG – Stop telling people how to conduct business! Let them do their own advertising in whatever language they want to – haven’t we driven enough revenue from this province? We should drive even more away! This place is so xenophobic that it’s ridiculous! It’s their money not ours to tell them how to do business! Mind your own damn business Quebec!

  15. As others have stated, attempts to filter websites is not going to work. Those that want to gamble on foreign websites will find a way.
    They don’t seem to realize part of the problem is the limited market Loto-Quebec has. Better ways to increase revenues would include marketing Loto-Quebec outside the province to get foreign revenue and licensing foreign gambling sites to cater to Quebeckers (and thereby follow certain guidelines and be taxed).

  16. The game of no IP and VPN services begin

  17. This is so ludicrous it’s almost funny. Unfortunately it’s not as this is the future of the world. Sites that merely mention things that have been “banned” (including blogs so I’ll refrain from mentioning any corporations or entities that like to do the banning or “banned” material) also find themselves going missing from the net.
    Mark my words that this is the beginning of the end of the free internet, all under the guise of security and copyright which in effect is simply profit and commerce, which is what Quebec is proposing, making it no different than the rest keeping their profits up by restricting the internet.
    And to those who keep touting, “just use a vpn”, I’d say that works for a few. The vast majority is not interested or educated enough to go that route. So for the most part, regardless of who is banning an IP address and for whatever reason, they will accomplish their goals. And in the end, everyone suffers as the net gets smaller and smaller.
    I can only hope that people raise enough of a stink (not going to their gambling site would be a good start). But, I suspect they won’t. On the other hand, if I had a restaurant and closed off streets leading to other restaurants, the general public would be up in arms. That’s the way people are. They will get worked up over some little thing but the issues that matter get a grumble and on with life they go.

    • @john said, “And to those who keep touting, “just use a vpn”, I’d say that works for a few. The vast majority is not interested or educated enough to go that route.”

      If you can figure out Facebook, you can figure out a VPN. Most services provide step-by-step instructions for many platforms. The point is, the more that governments throw up roadblocks, the more educated the citizens will become to use workarounds.

      • It’s getting late in this thread, but I just wanted to say that I agree – people can figure this out. But more important, if there is a market, then it can be figured out for them and VPN is a click on or off. That’s what computers are all about – doing things automatically.

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  23. If it’s not illegal to prevent foreign Gambling sites now, it will be after the TPP gets passed

  24. and we should restrict Celine Dion, our Quebec jewel of music, from performing at Las Vegas. She should appear at the Montreal Casino, that will promote tourism to Montreal, and gambling here too. Meanwhile, an Internet tax will cause her fans to go out to music stores to buy her CDs and DVDs instead of going to Vevo, YouTube, and free music sites. And being in a Quebec, she won’t be obliged to sing in English much, and then her local fans will be delighted as she creates more beautiful music creations that will enhance her legacy and be an even more important French Quebec icon.
    And she can sing the French “National Anthem” too at Canadiens games.

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  26. Can you tell us more about this? I’d love to find out some additional information.

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  28. If governement want people to gamble on their Espacejeux, all they need to do is make it decently competitive. I myself am a sport better, and gambling on espace jeu is just IMPOSSIBLE. The odds they offer are just so bad, i can’t even hope to run good on one event. Even the best sport better in the world could never turn a profit on that site. You would have to correctly guess winners 90%+ of the time.

    I really would love to encourage Québec’s economy instead of shitty offshore sites, but i am forced to use them because being 100% sure to not make money really kills the fun of gambling. As an example, payouts are almost doubled on offshore sites, for any bet you do.

    Even if they really did manage to ban those sites, all that would happen is i would stop gambling online. Playing on Espacejeux is just not an option at the moment.

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