The Liberal government’s stunning, dangerous, and inexcusable decision to rescind legislative safeguards for user generated content in Bill C-10 has rightly sparked media attention, political opposition, and anger from Canadians. The Broadcasting Act reform bill is problematic for many reasons, but last week’s decision to treat all user generated content as a program subject to regulation by the CRTC was a giant step too far. As a result of the decision, the CRTC will determine what terms and conditions will be attached the speech of millions of Canadians on sites like Youtube, Instagram, TikTok, and hundreds of other services should the bill become law.
As I’ve mentioned to several reporters, this is shocking and likely unconstitutional speech regulation. We would never think of subjecting the content of the letters, emails or blog posts to CRTC regulation, yet Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault and the Liberal government believe it is appropriate to regulate a new generation’s form of speech – TikTok videos, Instagram posts, Facebook feeds, and Youtube videos – as if they are the equivalent of broadcast programs.
The Conservative opposition has been far too acquiescent during committee hearings studying Bill C-10, but this change finally triggered a response. Heritage Critic Alain Rayes released a statement yesterday rightly noting that the Liberals were now targeting ordinary Canadians:
“Conservatives continue to oppose Liberal Bill C-10 and are voting against its main clauses in committee. While we support creating a level playing field between large foreign streaming services and Canadian broadcasters, C-10 is a bad piece of legislation giving too much power to the CRTC to regulate the internet and provides no clear guidelines for how that power will be used. Last Friday the Liberals went further than ever before by voting against the section of their own Bill that would have at least partially exempted individual users who upload videos to social media sites like YouTube and Facebook. They even promised to introduce a new amendment to regulate apps. This is another unacceptable attempt to target the freedoms of individual internet users…”
The Rayes comment sparked the usual, rote reply from Guilbeault, claiming that the Conservatives were failing to “stand up to web giants.” Guilbeault judgment has been so badly clouded by his insistence on framing everything as “web giant” issue, that he has forgotten that the job of a Canadian politician is to stand up for Canadians and their fundamental rights. Instead, reports now indicate that the decision to regulate the user generated content of millions of Canadians originated from demands by music industry lobbyists. Rather than taking a stand against those lobbyists, Guilbeault preferred to cave to their pressure and reverse his previous promise to establish guardrails against regulating user generated content.
While there is much to say about the decision to backdoor copyright issues into a broadcast bill (starting with: where is Innovation, Science and Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, who is the lead minister responsible for copyright?), I can do no better than the former CRTC Vice-Chair Peter Menzies quote to the National Post:
It’s difficult to contemplate the levels of moral hubris, incompetence or both that would lead people to believe such an infringement of rights is justifiable.
Guilbeault has made his position clear: he will not stand up to lobbyists, will not stand up for the rights of individual Canadians, and does not stand for freedom of expression. It is time for Canadians to take a stand against Bill C-10.