Betfair & PaddyPower by Jim Makos (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Betfair & PaddyPower by Jim Makos (CC BY-ND 2.0)


Government-Mandated Website Blocking Comes to Canada as Quebec’s Bill 74 Takes Effect

With little fanfare, Quebec passed website blocking legislation last week. Bill 74 took effect on May 18th, setting up a likely court showdown between the Quebec and federal governments. As discussed in several articles and posts over the past year (here and here), Quebec’s Internet blocking legislation requires Internet service providers to block access to a list of online gambling sites to be identified by the government-backed Loto-Québec. The government now characterizes the legislation as a matter of consumer protection, but it did not initially hesitate to emphasize that its primary goal was to increase revenues for Espace-Jeux, its officially sanctioned online gambling service.

The website blocking plans are now in the hands of Loto-Québec, which must generate the block list and make it available to Internet service providers. The ISPs will have 30 days to comply or face fines of up to $100,000 for failure to block access to the content. The law does not identify a specific technology that must be used for the website blocking. Before initiating any blocking, however, it seems likely that the ISPs will file a legal challenge over the validity of the Quebec blocking law. Legal challenges may focus on several issues, including the exclusive federal jurisdiction over telecommunications and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms implications of government-mandated Internet blocking.

The ISPs may be joined in their challenge by the federal government. The Quebec bill was raised in the House of Commons last month, with Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly pointing to the government’s support for net neutrality, which would be violated by mandated blocking of websites. Joly invited further discussion, but with the law now in force, the time to talk is over as Canada’s first government-mandated website blocking law will surely head to the courts.


  1. Devil's Advocate says:

    So much for net neutrality and anti-competitive law.

    It’s interesting how the “free market” is always used as an argument for not adding competition against the established monopolies, then we get this.

  2. Waste of time and effort says:

    Waste all this for something that can be bypassed in 30 seconds. If they want to throw money away throw it at me.

    • Devil's Advocate says:

      Blocking may be essentially an exercise in futility, and Quebec will witness that. But, if Quebec gets it way on the first implementation, there will be (as we always see) further clueless attempts to expand the scope of this blocking (thinking they can just “close the holes”), which always result in collateral interference with many perfectly innocent and lawful connections.

  3. Apparently they’re taking the head-in-sand approach. People will easily bypass any “block” with proxies, VPNs, or Tor. And of course more methods are being developed.

    • Sorry but commercial filtering solutions (look at Fortinet) can inspect secure traffic, so no VPN or proxy will save you if someone invests the time to configure The Great Quebec Firewall. Tor remains one of possible solutions but it is slow … really slow and many have no idea it exists.

      • Unless they have access to a widely trusted root certificate, they can’t decrypt the traffic. Even then, if I set up my own VPN with my own root certificate, they won’t be able to act as a man in the middle.

        The only place such firewall would work is in an enterprise environment, where you also control the end-user’s machines.

        • You leave in a dreamworld. There is a concept called an initial trust exchange or a first handshake etc. that can always be compromised with man in the middle attack. Basically your ISP can listen to that initial exchange of trust keys and store them… so decryption is possible and encryption is not necessary. They let you get what you want (unaltered packets of info) while they keep a decrypted copy of them until they find something suspicious. At that time, the session is reset and your browser sends you a time out/disconnect/content not available message. CHECK Fortinet, SonicWall or their competitors that deliver similar services and it is clearly there: they have an option to inspect any encrypted traffic. Think! How China gouvernement does it?

          • I’m talking about a public key infrastructure. As long as you can trust root CAs, it’s viable. If you don’t trust them, be your own CA.

            Do you really think it’s that easy to decrypt a VPN connection on which you use your own certificates?

            China is indeed blocking VPNs as best as it can, but that isn’t about to happen in Canada. And why do you think China is outright blocking VPNs? It’s because they can’t see what passes through them.

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  5. Captain Kirk says:

    The Quebec government doesn’t want competition so they block their rivals. They need to maintain their monopoly on gaming.

  6. OneEyedPirate says:

    If regular domains become widely censored, than an anti-censorship alternative will appear and become the new adopted standard.

  7. Pingback: Québec bafoue la neutralité d’Internet | Mario tout de go

  8. Rob Juneau says:

    Quebec… so unique it has to try to break the Internet like everyone else.

  9. Michael Richardson says:

    I wonder what would happen if ISPs block access to Espace-Jeux as well.

  10. Fake Name says:

    Would it be problematic for an ISP to black-hole Espace-Jeux?

  11. As a lawyer,I highly appreciate your research and the way you explained facts.

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  13. I recall that Nextflix banned all VPN and to my knowledge that was a disastrous backfire. No there’s an idea…..government to make VPN illegal ???

  14. Norman Vinson says:

    Next, the gvt can block all the websites criticizing the government. They can say it will protect people from confusion about gvt policy.

    • True but there will always be counter reactions.
      For example, if central banks eliminate of bank notes and coins in favor of digital currency as a means of “control” then
      cryptocurrencies like bitcoin will flourish.