Free Speech * Conditions Apply by Fukt by Chris Christian (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Free Speech * Conditions Apply by Fukt by Chris Christian (CC BY-NC 2.0)


Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault on Regulating Foreign News Sites: “What’s the Big Deal?”

In June 2017, the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage committee recommended implementing tax on Internet services in a report on media. Within minutes, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked about the proposal at a press conference in Montreal. Trudeau’s answer – which literally came as committee chair Hedy Fry was holding a press conference on the report – was unequivocal: No. The government was not going to raise costs of Internet services with an ISP tax. The committee recommendation was minutes old and the government wasted absolutely no time in killing the proposal.

Last week, the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel proposed a far broader regulatory vision for the Internet. Indeed, it is difficult to give the full breadth of this plan its due. I will be posting this week on some of the most harmful aspects of the plan, including regulating media organizations around the world with penalties in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for failing to obtain licences, regulating streaming companies despite their massive investment in Canada, regulating everything from app stores to operating systems, creating liability for harmful content that violates Canada’s commitments in the USMCA, undermining net neutrality, and increasing the costs of Internet-based services for Canadian consumers.

Over the weekend, Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault was asked about the proposal. In particular, he was asked about the proposal to licence foreign news sites (the example used was Breitbart but it could just as easily have been the New York Times, BBC, CNN, Fox or MSNBC). The answer should have been easy: no.

Instead of “no”, Minister Guilbeault’s response was that it was “no big deal.”

As I noted last week, the panel’s vision is to create a Canadian regulatory framework that knows no physical boundaries – the CRTC empowered to apply its power to any site or service anywhere in the world used by Canadians – and with few limitations as the regulator would dive deeply into mandated payments, what content is displayed, what news can be trusted, and what Canadians view or download.  That is a big deal. It would mean establishing the most extensive speech regulation Canada has ever seen on the demonstrably false premise that doing so will level the playing field, support Canadian stories, or save a production sector that is thriving in the internet age.

The Minister cannot downplay the extreme and inappropriate recommendations on media regulation in the report. The Minister cannot avoid taking a position by stating that these are just panel recommendations and not government policy. There is only one answer to the BTLR’s extreme recommendations and it is an easy one. No.


  1. I’m a biologist, so this strategy appeals to me because it’s natural. “Let’s just throw everything at the wall & see what sticks. Over eons, the best bits will be conserved and everything else will fall off and be forgotten.”

  2. Allan Peterson says:

    If woe throw anything at the wall et’s throw Trudeau and see what sticks. If necessary throw over and over again until something does stick. I’m sure we can get a government grant to study it.

  3. If you thought Canada was an international laughing stock because we had a PM who wore blackface, just wait until the CRTC tries to fine the BBC, CNN or Fox News because they won’t follow its regulations.

    What’s the difference? The CRTC cannot require the American TV channels (ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, PBS, CNN, AMC, FX, etc) that millions of Canadians watch to carry or fund Canadian content. Yet it now proposes that foreign streaming services be required to carry or fund Canadian content. The only difference I see is that the streaming companies bypass Bell, Rogers, Shaw, et al and sell directly to individual Canadians

    • Except Canada is not an international laughingstock, that would be the country with the actual avowed racist who calls African countries an unprintable term, wants to put land mines at the Mexican border and wears orangeface. Why is he president? Because the U.S. doesn’t have a Fairness Doctrine like Canada seeks to implement. I fail to see what Trudeau’s immature flub from 20 years ago has to do with upgrading the CRTC’s purview over content regulations, but I guess I’m not the kind of person who tunes into Fox News to sample the very best of what the “marketplace of ideas” has to offer. I say bring on the overhaul, if it deprives Michelle “I Block Everyone On Twitter So I Don’t Have to Listen To their Freedom of Speech” Rempel of her nightly Tucker Carlson two-minute-hate fest, then all the better. Canada can and should be a leader in giving Murdoch and Zuckerberg a run for their blood money.

      • Nice rant, but I would bet you would quickly change your tune if Trump said the US was going to regulate every website on the internet that Americans visit and that if sites, like the CBC, didn’t comply then the US would hit them with heavy fines.

  4. Sorry but “what’s the big deal” is correct. It’s Canada’s version of the Fairness Doctrine and it’s long overdue. The only people complaining about this are libertarian fantasists and right-wing bad-faith actors who want the “license” to spew hate and gaslighting with impunity, and their clueless lapdogs of the MSM acting on “principle.” If it angers the likes of the Postmedia/UCP War Room rags and Ezra Levant, then I say Trudeau is on the right track and more power to him. Fox News is not “news” and neither are Rebel, True North, Canada Proud, any of this tripe. Fox should have been shut down years ago but the U.S. obsession with unfettered “mUh fReE $PeEch” won’t allow it. Every market needs regulations and the “marketplace of ideas” is no different. It’s just a different form of curtailing pollution. Canada does not have a First Amendment and for good reason. The Internet needs reining in and it’s about time Trudeau did something to stop the insidious spread of Trumpism north of the 49th that Harper started with the repeal of Section 13 of the Human Rights Code, and the creation of the Postmedia oligopoly. It’s a minority government but I’m rooting for the Liberals to find a way to get ‘er done. Deplatforming works and reality has a liberal bias. That’s it. That’s the tweet.

    • In your little rant, you’ve managed to point out many of the problems on the right, but you’ve failed to mention any of them from the left. What about all of the radical leftist feminist and antifa types calling for all men to be castrated at 18 years old, or to kill all cis-white males? They should be able to say whatever they want, but anyone that wants to cap immigration is an alt-right Hitler-loving Nazi?

      Or in your world are the only bad people from the right? Fox News is garbage, but so is CNN. The right certainly doesn’t have a monopoly on bullshit, and to believe otherwise is just downright ignorant.

  5. This latest interview on CTV’s Question Period shows Minister Steven Guilbeault’s total lack of understanding of freedom of communication, a Charter protected right. He may be young, but that’s no excuse for ignorance.

  6. This reminds me of Soviet Era attempts to control distribution of Western Music. X-ray techs sold used film to be engraved with music recorded off the air. Samizdat peddlers would roll the film up and pull it out of their sleeves to sell.

    Print copyright was divided up geographically. If someone bought up the copyright in a region they could charge whatever the market would bear, or price something they did no want published out of the reach of potential readers.

  7. Pingback: News of the Week; February 5, 2020 – Communications Law at Allard Hall