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Montréal: Appui aux artistes // Support for artists by Georges Alexandar https://flic.kr/p/9AtNds (CC BY 2.0)

Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez’s Credibility Problem, Part One: The Laith Marouf/CMAC Issue

Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez appeared before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage on Friday for one hour and walked away with a serious credibility problem. Rodriguez has already been repeatedly contradicted on Bill C-11, claiming that the bill doesn’t cover user content or algorithms. On both issues, the CRTC Chair (and virtually every expert) say otherwise. Friday’s hearing focused on two issues – the Laith Marouf/CMAC issue of government funding for an anti-semite and Bill C-18, the Online News Act. Given his responses to MP questions, Rodriguez now faces credibility questions on both. This post will focus on his responses to questions about Canadian Heritage funding for CMAC/Marouf and a second post tomorrow will examine his misleading statements on the bill.

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October 25, 2022 6 comments News
ATIP screenshot, Michael Geist

The Law Bytes Podcast, Episode 143: Canada’s Information Commissioner Caroline Maynard on Why Government Needs a Culture of Providing Information Instead of Hiding It

Canadians using the Access to Information Act system frequently find that it is simply does not work as the legislation prescribes, with most facing long delays and widespread redactions. Canada’s Information Commissioner Caroline Maynard is trying to do something to fix that. She has been calling for legislative reforms, more resources, and leadership within government departments to prioritize providing information instead of hiding it. Commissioner Maynard joins the Law Bytes podcast to discuss the current system, how exceptions are often used too aggressively to limit public access, and what can be done to fix these problems. 

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October 24, 2022 3 comments Podcasts
[explore] Facebook Notebook by Iker Merodio (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/2341zX3

Why the Real Bill C-18 Threat is Bill C-18

Facebook is a hard company to support. Earlier this week, I attended an excellent talk with Frances Haugen, the well-known Facebook whistleblower, who delivered a compelling case that the social media giant, driven by profit maximization, consistently errs on the side of technical choices that keeps users engaged, angry, and on the platform, often at an enormous societal cost. Haugen identified numerous harms associated with the company’s practices – privacy, the impact on children, misinformation, and algorithmic settings that often inflame rather than educate – and emphasized that there was a need to address these concerns through better regulation (notably transparency and privacy rules).

Haugen’s talk came to mind yesterday as Facebook released a blog post confirming that it had not been invited to appear before the Canadian Heritage committee studying Bill C-18, outlining its concerns, and making it clear that it was starting to think about the prospect of blocking news sharing in Canada:

faced with adverse legislation that is based on false assumptions that defy the logic of how Facebook works, we feel it is important to be transparent about the possibility that we may be forced to consider whether we continue to allow the sharing of news content in Canada. 

There will be much effort by the government and media lobby groups to paint Facebook as engaging in threatening tactics. These should be rejected because while there is a desperate need for legislative reforms to address some of Facebook’s harms, the harms from Bill C-18 also deserve attention. In the context of the bill, the real threat is not Facebook but a legislative process that has undermined democratic norms by blocking dozens of witnesses, threatening the free flow of information by payment for links, and rewarding some of Canada’s wealthiest companies such as Bell and leaving small media companies ineligible.

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October 22, 2022 4 comments News
Closed by Geoffrey Meyer-van Voorthuijsen https://flic.kr/p/edpuJ2 (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Government Moves to Block Dozens of Potential Witnesses as it Shuts Down Bill C-18 Hearings

Earlier this year, the government deployed disturbing anti-democratic tactics by repeatedly cutting off debate on Bill C-11 in both the House of Commons and during clause-by-clause review of the bill.  As a result, MPs rushed to vote on over 150 amendments, most without public disclosure of what was even being voted on. That approach rightly sparked anger and has even led supporters of Bill C-11 to ask the Senate to remedy unexpected amendments that were not subject to any public debate. As bad as that was, later today the government will arguably engage in an even more problematic tactic, as it moves to block dozens of potential witnesses from presenting their views on the Online News Act (Bill C-18).

Minutes after Canadian Heritage Pablo Rodriguez answers committee questions on the bill for the very first time this afternoon, the government – backed by the NDP – is expected to shut down further witnesses at the Bill C-18 hearings and move directly to clause-by-clause review. As a result, dozens of stakeholders and experts will be blocked from giving testimony to the Heritage committee. For a government that once prided itself on consultation, the decision to block further committee testimony is a remarkable abdication of the principles of a consultative, inclusive approach to legislative development.

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October 21, 2022 8 comments News
Support Small Business by Photo by Eva Bronzini from Pexels: https://www.pexels.com/photo/support-small-business-text-on-paper-7661188/

Small Business Weak: Why Bills C-11 and C-18 Undermine the Government’s Claims of Small Business Support

As anyone watching the House of Commons this week knows, it is Small Business Week. Each day, Liberal MPs have stood in the House to proclaim their support for small business. The speeches are supplemented by tweets, such as this one by Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez. The professed admiration for small business came to mind last night during a spectacular Senate hearing on Bill C-11 featuring Jennifer Valentyne, Stewart Reynolds (aka Brittlestar), and Darcy Michael. The three witnesses, who were bursting with energy and confidence, came with simple message: fix Bill C-11 by keeping the government and CRTC away from the platform algorithms. It is a message that Rodriguez has ignored for months, despite the fact that these are precisely the creators one would think the Minister of Canadian Heritage would want to support.

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October 20, 2022 3 comments News