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Rock Bottom: Bill C-10 Gag Order and No-Notice Meetings Means the End of Committee Review is Near

Yesterday was not a good day for those who still believe that democratic ideals matter. The day began with an iPolitics-sponsored debate featuring MPs who have played a starring role at the Canadian Heritage committee review of Bill C-10: Liberal MP Anthony Housefather, Conservative MP Rachael Harder, NDP MP Heather McPherson, and Bloc MP Martin Champoux. The substantive discussion largely mirrored the committee debate, but far more dispiriting was Housefather seeking to justify the Bill C-10 gag order by arguing that it was the democratic right of the government to use whatever legislative tools are available to it (even if that tool had not been used for two decades) or Champoux talking about the need to respect democracy while simultaneously supporting the gag order.

While the MPs presumably thought that they would not be meeting again to discuss Bill C-10 until Friday (the usual committee meeting day), hours later they were back in committee for a four hour marathon secretly negotiated by the party whips for the Liberals, NDP, and Bloc. The meeting had so little notice that committee chair Scott Simms opened by making his displeasure with the party whips very clear:

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June 10, 2021 6 comments News
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The Broadcasting Act Betrayal: The Long Term Consequences of the Guilbeault Gag Order

Several weeks after Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault introduced Bill C-10, I started a 20 part blog post series called the Broadcasting Act Blunder (podcast edition here). The series examined many of concerns with the bill, including issues such as over-broad regulation and discoverability requirements that would only garner public attention many months later. I thought about that series yesterday as I watched Guilbeault try in the House of Commons to defend the indefensible: a gag order on committee review of the bill, the first such order in two decades. While the bill is in dire need of fixing, what occurred yesterday was far worse than a blunder. It was a betrayal. A betrayal of the government’s commitment to “strengthen Parliamentary committees so that they can better scrutinize legislation.” A betrayal of the promise to do things differently from previous governments. A betrayal of Canada’s values as a Parliamentary democracy.

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June 8, 2021 9 comments News
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Guilbeault’s Gag Order: Government Plans Motion to Stop Bill C-10 Debate

Earlier this week, Bloc leader Yves-François Blanchet called for a “gag order” on Bill C-10, which would limit debate on the bill using a process known as time allocation. The irony of calling for a gag order on debate over a bill with profound implications for freedom of expression is likely not lost on many Canadians. But worse than a regional, separatist party with 32 MPs calling for a gag order is the Minister of Canadian Heritage doing so. That is precisely what happened last night, as Steven Guilbeault announced that the government would be introducing a motion to cut off debate on Bill C-10.

Guilbeault’s statement in support of the gag order is riddled with inaccuracies and omissions:

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June 4, 2021 25 comments News
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Concerns Mount Over Bill C-10’s Unintended Consequences to Canadian Creators

Google, which did not appear before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage as part of its study on Bill C-10 (neither did TikTok, Facebook or other big tech companies with the exception of Netflix), has spoken out over concerns with Bill C-10. The post warns of the “possible unintended consequences that could negatively and unnecessarily impact” both creators and Canadian Youtube users. The company is particularly concerned with the discoverability requirements that have been expanded to include user generated content:

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June 3, 2021 9 comments News
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Liberals, NDP and Bloc Vote Down User Generated Content Safeguards as MPs Defend Deeply Flawed Bill C-10 Committee Study

The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage continued its clause-by-clause review of Bill C-10 yesterday, spending the full two hours debating a Conservative amendment that would have restored the user generated content safeguards that were removed when Section 4.1 was dropped from the bill. The Conservative amendment effectively offered the parties a “do-over” by acknowledging that the removal had sparked huge public concern over the implications for freedom of expression and net neutrality. Nevertheless, the Liberals, NDP, and Bloc voted down the motion, with the NDP not even bothering to speak to the issue at all.

While the three parties were not supportive of addressing the user generated content concerns, they were quick to defend any suggestions that the study of Bill C-10 had been flawed and excluded important voices. For example, when Conservative MP Rachael Harder began reading comments from Scott Benzie on the harms to digital-first Canadian creators who did not appear before the committee (citing the likes of Lily Singh, Molly Burke and thousands more), Liberal MP Anthony Housefather jumped in with a “point of clarification” that the Conservatives could have invited Benzie as a witness (he said the same to me in a Twitter exchange). Bloc MP Martin Champoux also took issue with suggestions that the consultation had been incomplete, stating that there had been 121 witnesses.

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June 1, 2021 15 comments News