Bill C-51, the anti-terrorism bill, passed third reading in the House of Commons last night as Conservative and Liberal MPs voted in favour of the bill, leaving only the NDP and Green opposed. It now heads to the Senate, which has already conducted most of its hearings on the bill. Those hearings – which have included Canadian Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien – have been better than the embarrassing Public Safety and National Security review (hearing by the numbers, witnesses, and clause-by-clause review), yet the outcome is almost sure to be the same. Bill C-51 is on a legislative fast track and Conservative Senators are incredibly unlikely to require amendments that would send the bill back to the House.
As debate on Bill C-51 wound down, Press Progress points out that Conservative MP Laurie Hawn took the time to question the values of leading Canadian technology companies such as Shopify and Hootsuite. The CEOs of those companies, along many others, dared to sign a public letter calling on the government to go back to the drawing board on the bill. The letter highlights concerns with website takedowns, new CSIS powers, and data security issues.
Hawn responded to the letter (and a related op-ed) in the House of Commons:
Several NDP members have cited an op-ed by some high-tech business owners critical of the bill. I admit that it is nice to see the NDP supporting business in some way, but I digress. I would suggest that if websites providing content, hosting services or other businesses are profiting from the dispersal of this type of horrific material, they should seriously reconsider their business model and lack of commitment to the values that bind us as Canadians.
Suggesting that some of Canada’s most prominent new technology companies lack a commitment to Canadian values is an incredible accusation. Ironically, Shopify is the same company that Industry Minister James Moore recognized when pulling together his Digital Canada 150 as his leading example of a Canadian e-commerce success story. That turns out to be a better call than even Moore might have anticipated, since their speaking out on Bill C-51 demonstrates a willingness to place public policy concerns ahead of the possible consequences arising from government criticism.