040:365 Free Speech. by John Nakamura Remy https://flic.kr/p/7HRYFm (CC BY-SA 2.0)

040:365 Free Speech. by John Nakamura Remy https://flic.kr/p/7HRYFm (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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Knowing Who to Stand Up For: Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault and the Regulation of Free Speech

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.

11 Comments

  1. The internet is a lot like parliament – tribal and childish. Lies, misinformation, hypocrisy. racism, fake outrage, illogic, sanctimony, bullying, and many other distasteful behaviors occur on the internet and in parliament.

    Existing laws are sufficient to prosecute criminal behavior whether it occurs on the internet or in parliament. Offensive and distasteful behavior on the internet and in parliament is the price we pay for the multiple benefits we get from having free speech and the other rights guaranteed in the Charter of Rights.

    This bill needs to die as soon as possible.

    • We must ask that, in the Liberals trying their best to push this through, where our intelligent, well schooled, well practiced judges, lawyers, keepers of the peace & captains of industry are? Such people must be aware they we already have a hate speech law in place for which people can be prosecuted. What truly is the Liberal agenda in adding another bureaucratic layer into this conundrum? Or is it that our ‘little potato’ cannot take the heat now coming from all quarters and is using Guilbeault to do his bidding for him? Something smells in the state of Denmark.

      • Unfortunately governments of all political stripes have relied on the courts to tear down laws that should never have been put in place; they seem to have the opinion that they’ll throw it against the wall (in an effort to please their voter base) and see if it sticks (the courts don’t declare it a charter violation). To me this means that if the Justice department analyzes the bill and says that it won’t pass muster in the courts the governing party ignores that and sends it through anyway. Unfortunately to get the law struck down requires a court case.

        As far as already having laws in place to deal with the new laws, and regulations put in place, it still seems to be about pandering to their voter base rather than need. For instance, in the big Order-In-Council last year where they proscribed a lot of new firearms as “prohibited”, in many cases the firearm was made prohibited because of the idea that they could be turned into an automatic firearm; that is already illegal under section 102 of the Criminal Code and has been for many years.

  2. Pingback: ● NEWS ● #MichaelGeist #canada ☞ Knowing Who to Stand Up For: Herit… | Dr. Roy Schestowitz (罗伊)

  3. Salley Swett says:

    Is there a petition started or out there somewhere?

  4. Pingback: Conservatives grill Guilbeault about regulating social media - iPolitics

  5. Janet Walsh says:

    Pierre Poilievre has a you tube video with a link to a petition

  6. Pingback: ‘Full-blown assault’ on free expression: Inside the comprehensive Liberal bill to regulate the internet – Americanuck Radio

  7. Pingback: Une attaque en règle contre la liberté d'expression : Les dessous du projet de loi libéral visant à réglementer l'Internet - Les DéQodeurs

  8. Pingback: Tories want Charter lens applied to proposed update of Broadcasting Act - iPolitics

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