Last week, the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage rushed through the clause-by-clause review of Bill C-11 in a manner that should not be forgotten or normalized. Despite the absence of any actual deadline, the government insisted that just three two hour sessions be allocated to full clause-by-clause review of the bill. Once the government-imposed deadline arrived at 9:00 pm, the committee moved to voting on the remaining proposed amendments without any debate, discussion, questions for department officials, or public disclosure of what was being voted on. This week’s Law Bytes podcast features clips from a hearing that one Member of Parliament described as “an affront to democracy”.
Archive for June, 2022
The Law Bytes Podcast, Episode 131: The Bill C-11 Clause-by-Clause Review – What “An Affront to Democracy” Sounds Like
Bill C-11 Enters a Danger Zone: Government Shifts from Ignoring Witnesses on User Content Regulation to Dismissing Criticisms as “Misinformation”
The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage heard from a total of 48 witnesses as individuals or representing organizations during its study of Bill C-11 (excluding the CRTC and government officials). Of those 48, at least 16 either raised concerns about the regulation of user content in the bill or disputed government claims about its effect. Liberal, NDP and Bloc MPs proposed and voted for amendments in Bill C-11 raised by a single witness or organization, but somehow the testimony of one-third of the witnesses, which included creators, consumer groups, independent experts, Internet platforms, and industry associations. was ignored.
The government’s decision to ignore the overwhelming majority of testimony on the issue of regulating user content damages the credibility of the committee Bill C-11 review and makes the forthcoming Senate study on the bill even more essential. But the government went beyond just ignoring witness testimony yesterday in the House of Commons. It now claims those views constitute “misinformation.” Tim Louis, a Liberal MP who is on the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage and sat through hours of testimony, said this in the House of Commons yesterday:
The Groundhog Day Privacy Bill: The Government Waited Months to Bring Back Roughly the Same Privacy Plan?!
Innovation, Science and Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne yesterday unveiled Bill C-27, the updated privacy reform law. While Champagne described it is a “historic day”, the bill is better described as a case of Groundhog Day, since it looks an awful lot like the last privacy bill that died with last year’s election call and which never even advanced to the committee stage. I wrote earlier this week about the government’s seeming indifference to privacy and this bill doesn’t do much to change the analysis as the bill raises many of the same questions and will likely face similar opposition.
The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage conducted the one day of debate on Bill C-11 yesterday that Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez and the Liberal government – aided and abetted by the NDP – required under a House of Commons motion. The result was an embarrassment to the government that leaves a stain that will not be easy to remove. Despite the absence of any actual deadline, the government insisted that just three two hour sessions be allocated to full clause-by-clause review of the bill featuring debate and discussion (MPs on the committee were all open to extending each session by 30 minutes for a total of 7 1/2 hours). With roughly 170 amendments proposed by five parties, there was only time for a fraction of the amendments to be reviewed. Instead, once the government-imposed deadline arrived at 9:00 pm, the committee moved to voting on the remaining proposed amendments without any debate, discussion, questions for department officials, or public disclosure of what was being voted on. The voting ran past midnight with the public left with little idea of what is in or out of the bill. The updated bill will be posted in the next day or so.
Over the past several weeks, there have been several important privacy developments in Canada including troubling privacy practices at well-known organizations such as the CBC and Tim Hortons, a call from business organizations for privacy reform, the nomination of a new privacy commissioner with little privacy experience, and a decision by a Senate committee to effectively overrule the government on border privacy rules. These developments raise the puzzling question of why the federal government – led by Innovation, Science and Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, and Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez – are so indifferent to privacy, at best treating it as a low priority issue and at worst proposing dangerous measures or seemingly hoping to cash in on weak privacy laws in order to fund other policy priorities.