The long legislative road of Bill C-11 comes to an end later today as nearly 2 1/2 years after the original Bill C-10 was first tabled in the House of Commons by then-Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault, the Senate will vote to approve the bill. I’ve been asked repeatedly this week about what now lies ahead, but I think it is worth one more look back. I have long believed that politics invariably involves compromise as governments look to maximize the political benefit and limit the political risk from any given policy. The emphasis on compromise is why stakeholders rarely walk away entirely happy on most issues that feature a diversity of views, whether it is copyright, privacy, or Internet regulation. Yet with Bill C-11, compromise from the government never came.
Post Tagged with: "broadcasting act"
The Senate Standing Committee on Transport and Communications completed its extensive review of Bill C-11 last week. After a review for grammatical, editorial, and translation issues, the committee is expected to finalize its report back to the Senate later today. While the next steps for Bill C-11 remain somewhat uncertain, the committee should be congratulated for providing a model for legislative review. Indeed, the Senate committee was everything the House committee was not: policy focused, open to hearing from a wide range of witnesses, and willing to engage in meaningful debate on potential amendments. Politics occasionally arose during the clause-by-clause review, but political considerations were never going to be entirely stripped from a highly politicized piece of legislation.
I may have missed the odd change, but the following amendments were approved by the committee:
From Bad to Worse: Senate Committee Adds Age Verification Requirement for Online Undertakings to Bill C-11
The Senate committee studying Bill C-11 has ramped up the hours devoted to clause-by-clause review with amendments related to user generated content currently up for debate. However, earlier today, just prior to addressing the user content issue, the committee shockingly adopted an amendment that adds age verification for online undertakings to the Broadcasting Act. The amendment comes as a policy objective, meaning that it will fall to the CRTC to determine how to implement it. The implications are enormous since broadly defined the policy would require every online service that transmits or retransmits programs over the Internet (broadly defined to include all audio and audiovisual content) to establish age verification requirements to prevent child access to programs with explicit sexual activity. If the CRTC implements, the policy will surely be challenged as unconstitutional.
The Law Bytes Podcast, Episode 147: Canada’s Battle over Internet Streamers – A Cancon Story of Freedom of Expression, Algorithms and Cultural Policy
The end for Bill C-11 at the Senate is drawing near as this week, Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez is scheduled to make a long awaited appearance followed by clause-by-clause review of the bill. The Senate hearings have been a model for legislative review. They have heard from a myriad of witness, read countless briefs, and immersed themselves in a hard piece of legislation. Regardless of their views, they know the issues around content regulation in the bill are real. The big remaining questions are whether those hearings result in legislative amendments and, if they do, whether the government will accept them.
While the Senate was continuing its hearings last week, I was delighted to travel to Yale University to deliver a talk on the bill and the controversies it has sparked. This week’s Law Bytes podcast is an audio version of that talk, which traces the development of Canadian broadcast policy as applied to the Internet and recounts how a relatively uncontroversial bill when first introduced sparked a firestorm that is still raging.
Oops, He Did It Again: CRTC Chair Ian Scott Tries to Walk Back Bill C-11 Comments, But Officials Confirm Power to Regulate User Content is in the Bill
CRTC Chair Ian Scott returned to the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications last night, presumably hoping that his fourth House and Senate committee appearance involving Bill C-11 might allow him to say what the government clearly would like, namely that the bill will not lead to the regulation of user content. Yet Scott has failed each time, because the bill plainly does contain that power. In this instance, Scott embarrassed himself, the CRTC, and the entire legislative process as he demonstrably failed to defend the independence of the CRTC and zig-zagged between actively promoting the bill, claiming that was not his role, and even bizarrely offering to draft potential amendments.