The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage continued its clause-by-clause review of Bill C-10 on Friday. As reported in the National Post and iPolitics, the meeting featured a motion brought by Conservative MP Rachael Harder calling on the committee to suspend review of the bill until an updated review of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms implications can be conducted by the Minister of Justice in light of the removal of Section 4.1, that provided safeguards against regulating user generated content under the Broadcasting Act. The motion also calls on the Ministers of Justice and Canadian Heritage to appear before committee to discuss the issue.
The initial Charter statement, which is a requirement under the Department of Justice Act, specifically referenced the safeguards for user generated content in justifying potential limitations on freedom of expression. By removing one of those safeguards, the Conservatives reasonably argued that the bill had been fundamentally altered and that an updated analysis is needed. The full text of the motion stated:
That, given that the deletion of section 4.1. Clause 3 of Bill C-10 would extend the application of the Broadcasting Act to programs uploaded by users of social media services which, in turn, could violate paragraph 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms;
and given that the current “Charter statement” required under section 4.2 of the Department of Justice Act with respect to the potential effects of Bill C-10 directly states that “Users of social media who upload programs for sharing with other users and are not affiliated with the service provider will not be subject to regulation” as part of its argument that Bill C-10 respects section 2(b) of the Charter; the Committee
(a) request that the Minister of Justice produce an updated “Charter Statement”, under section 4.2 of the Department of Justice Act, with respect to the potential effects of Bill C-10, as amended to date, on the rights and freedoms that are guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms;
(b) invite the Minister of Canadian Heritage and the Minister of Justice to appear before the Committee to discuss the implications of Bill C-10, as amended to date, for users of social media services; and
(c) suspend clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-10, notwithstanding the Committee’s decision of March 26, 2021, until it has received the updated “Charter Statement”, requested under paragraph (a), and has heard from the ministers, invited under paragraph (b).
The Liberal government was the one that established requirements for Charter statements to “ensure the rights and freedoms of Canadians are respected throughout the law-making process.” While the Liberals argue that the statements are not updated, given their emphasis on Charter compliance, it is discouraging to see its Members of Parliament – supported by the NDP – move to stop debate on the critical issue of freedom of expression and the Charter at committee.