The Liberal government strategy of multiple gag orders and a “super motion” to limit debate bore fruit last night as Bill C-10 received House of Commons approval at 1:30 am. The Parliamentary process took hours as the government passed multiple motions to cut short debate, re-inserted amendments that had been previously ruled null and void, and rejected a last-ditch attempt to restore the Section 4.1 safeguards for user generated content. The debate included obvious errors from Liberal MPs who were presumably chosen to defend the bill. For example, Julie Dabrusin, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, said that Section 2.1 in Bill C-10 “specifically excludes content uploaded by users.” Only it doesn’t as Dabrusin should know given that 2.1 covers users not content and she was the MP who introduced the amendment at committee to remove Section 4.1, which was the provision that excluded content uploaded by users.
Given the public support from the Bloc for cutting short debate, the outcome last night was never really in doubt. Perhaps the most interesting vote of the night came with a motion from Conservative MP Alain Rayes, which once again called for the re-insertion of Section 4.1. While the motion was defeated with the support of Liberal, NDP, and Bloc MPs, there were several notable exceptions. Liberal MPs Nate-Erskine Smith and Wayne Long both abstained and former Justice Minister (and now independent MP) Jody Wilson-Raybould voted in favour of the motion. The report stage was limited to one hour of debate, which meant that the 23 amendments were again subject to no real debate or discussion. Once the bill passed the report stage, it was on to third and final reading, which was limited to 15 minutes of debate per party. The vote followed just before 1:30 am with the Liberals, NDP, and Bloc once again supporting Bill C-10. Wilson-Raybould joined with the Conservatives in voting against it [full vote by MP here].
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For the past week, Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault has promised to address widespread concern over Bill C-10, the Broadcasting Act reform bill. After the issue emerged as an increasingly prominent part of House of Commons debate, Guilbeault stated;
we also want to make sure that the content that people upload on social media won’t be considered as programming under the act and that it won’t be regulated by the CRTC. And that’s why we will be bringing forward another amendment that will make this crystal clear.
That statement was repeated on Wednesday by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the House of Commons:
We have clearly indicated that this is not about individual users or about what Canadians themselves publish online. As the Minister of Canadian Heritage said, we will propose an amendment to make this crystal clear to us and to everyone else.
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Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault and the Liberal government’s response to mounting concern over its decision to remove a legal safeguard designed to ensure the CRTC would not regulate user generated content has been denial. The department’s own officials told MPs that all programming on sites like Youtube would be subject to regulation, yet Guilbeault insisted to the House of Commons that user generated content would be excluded from regulation as part of Bill C-10, his Broadcasting Act reform bill.
However, based on new documents I recently obtained, it has become clear that Guilbeault and the government have misled the Canadian public with their response. In fact, the government effectively acknowledges that it is regulating user generated content in a forthcoming, still-secret amendment to Bill C-10. Amendment G-13, submitted by Liberal MP Julie Dabrusin on April 7th and likely to come before the committee studying the bill over the next week, seeks to amend Section 10(1) of the Broadcasting Act which specifies the CRTC’s regulatory powers. It states:
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Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault appeared before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage last month and was asked by Liberal MP Tim Louis about “misinformation that somehow this [Bill C-10] would control, or regulate, or censor social media.” Guilbeault responded:
In the case of YouTube, for example, we’re not particularly interested in what people…you know, when my great-uncle posts pictures of his cats, that’s not what we’re interested in as a legislator.
When YouTube or Facebook act as a broadcaster, then the legislation would apply to them and the CRTC would define how that would happen. But really, we’re not interested in user-generated content. We are interested in what broadcasters are doing.
Guilbeault was referring to a specific exception in Bill C-10, the Broadcasting Act reform bill, that excluded user generated content from the scope of broadcast regulation.
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I have not been shy about expressing my concerns with the Bill C-10, the Broadcasting Act reform bill. From a 20 part series examining the legislation to two podcasts to a debate with Janet Yale, I have actively engaged on policy concerns involving regulation that extends far beyond the “web giants”, the loss of Canadian sovereignty over broadcast ownership, the threat to Canadian intellectual property, and the uncertainty of leaving many questions to the CRTC to answer. Yet beyond the substance of the bill, in recent days an even more troubling issue has emerged as Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault, his Parliamentary Secretary Julie Dabrusin, and the Liberal government abandon longstanding commitments to full consultation, transparency, and parliamentary process.
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