Concerns about the terrifying growth of antisemitism in Canada have been top of mind for me and many in the Jewish community for weeks. While some have thankfully spoken up, discouragingly too many remain silent despite shootings at Jewish schools, molotov cocktails and vandalism at Jewish community centres, and threats at Jewish businesses and homes. We desperately need strong, unequivocal action from our leaders, colleagues, and neighbours. Yesterday, I appeared before the Canadian Heritage committee as part of its study on “Tech Giants’ Current and Ongoing Use of Intimidation and Subversion Tactics to Evade Regulations in Canada and Across the World”. I’ll post more on the appearance on this odd study shortly – my focus was on how regulatory capture from legacy creator groups and News Media Canada undermined the Bill C-11 and C-18 process – but the discussion provided the opportunity to urge the committee to ensure accountability on antisemitism.
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As the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage summoned Google to appear next week before committee (and implausibly provide all internal documentation related to Bill C-18 by tomorrow), media coverage of the bill and Google’s response has intensified. I was pleased to appear on CBC’s Power and Politics to discuss the the bill, Google’s response, and the implications of mandated payments for links that the government expects could fund 35% of news expenditures in all news outlets in Canada.
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.
Over the past year, I have watched an unhealthy amount of House of Commons and Senate committee hearings. In fact, in recent months I may have watched more of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage than Netflix, given hearings on Bill C-11, C-18, and the Laith Marouf issue. Having watched many hours – and appeared multiple times before that committee and others – it is time to declare the system broken. I’m not sure I have answers, but the starting point may be recognizing that Canadians are not being well served and there is plenty of blame to go around.
The impetus for this post is Friday’s hearing on the Laith Marouf incident. The problems started even before the hearing as the committee voted against asking Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez to appear as part of the study, with some MPs saying they would take a wait-and-see approach. But if government is to be accountable for the disastrous failure for using an anti-hate program to fund an anti-semite, committee testimony should not be something to avoid.
The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage yesterday held a special hearing with experts to discuss Bill C-10 and concerns about the freedom of expression implications of regulating user generated content. I was pleased to appear before the committee and took questions from MPs from four of the five parties (only the Liberals did not ask me any questions). I have two posts on the appearance: this post features my opening statement and a second post links to a special edition of the Law Bytes podcast with the audio of my appearance.
The full text is posted below. There are at least three points emphasizing. First, no other country in the world uses broadcast regulation in this way, making Canada a true global outlier. Second, there is no evidence of a discoverability problem for user generated content. Third, the issue of excluding Youtube from the scope of the bill is open to considerable debate and was not even raised by CIMA in its written submission to the committee.