The Trudeau Liberals’ highly-controversial, long-scrutinized Internet censorship legislation, Bill C-11, quietly passed the Senate last Thursday on route to officially becoming law. While few seemed to notice, the Bill’s passing is a major legislative development that almost all Canadians should be concerned about. Photo credit: Facebook/Pablo Rodriguez
Justin Trudeau’s censorship legislation, Bill C-11, passed the Senate last week with a whimper, not a bang. For something as monumental as government stepping in to effectively censor the Internet, there should have been a much greater outcry from the media, communications experts, and average Canadians.
The Bill will enable the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to basically influence what Canadians can see on the Internet, with the supposed objective of promoting more Canadian content and dealing with so-called “misinformation”.
Initially a number of Senators – even some that had been appointed by Trudeau – had opposed the Bill and made a number of amendments before sending it back to the House of Commons to be finalized. One of the most contentious aspects of the Bill was whether or not it should apply to “user-generated content”, which can range from home-made videos on YouTube to quite sophisticated online news organizations and other informational content on a wide range of topics.
There are growing numbers of people who are making a good living in this way by signing up paid subscribers to this type of service. The fact that their livelihoods could be threatened and that Canadians may not be able to access this content despite it being completely legal and in demand is outrageous.
As recently as a few months ago, the Minister of Heritage, Pablo Rodriguez, said the Bill would not apply to user-generated content, yet it was not exempted in the Bill. A previous iteration of this legislation, Bill C-10, did contain this exemption. One of the key amendments made by the Senate was to include this exemption, which the Liberals, supported by the NDP, refused to do.
To add to the absurdity and mendacity, the CRTC then said even though the legislation gave the overview body power over user-generated content, the CRTC would never use it. So why were the Liberals so obstinate about keeping it in the Bill? Clearly because they do indeed plan to use the power at some future time. Rodriguez spent months denying that user content was included, while anyone reading the Bill could see that was not true. With the passage of the Bill in the Senate, Rodriguez stated he was “excited” that the Bill would be becoming law. Canadians should be up in arms.
You would think that there would be major headlines in the mainstream media about such a worrisome development for free speech and excessive government control. But sadly, so much of the media has been bought by taxpayer dollars they have lost their critical edge. Also, the second shoe to drop in the Liberal plans to exert more control over the Internet is Bill C-18, which would force the large technology companies and streaming companies to financially compensate Canadian media companies for news stories that appear on their platforms. Legacy media is clearly salivating at the prospect of getting their hands on more money to prop up their outdated business model.
Interestingly, a recent report from the Heritage Department stated that the hundreds of millions of tax dollars that have already been thrown at legacy media have failed to stem the ongoing decline of news corporations, so it appears even more funds will just prolong the agony.
Another interesting related story that recently was made public involved some federal bureaucrats that back in 2021 asked Facebook and Twitter to take down a newspaper story they clearly did not like. To their credit, Facebook and Twitter refused. But in the new world of C-11, who’s to say that mid-level government bureaucrats won’t be doing this kind of thing as a matter of course, to ensure messages the government doesn’t like are censored? Misinformation is a very subjective thing, and one person’s misinformation is another’s valuable intelligence.
The regulations for C-11 are yet to be determined, and the regulations are where the detail really becomes clear as to how any piece of legislation is supposed to work. Throughout the process of moving this Bill through the legislative process, the Liberals did everything they could to reduce debate on the issues, including not responding to various expert critics of the Bill, shutting out Indigenous content creators opposing the Bill, shutting down committee and other discussions on the Bill with time allocation motions and the like, just as this very non-transparent government has done with so much other legislation in recent years. The only good news is that if the Conservatives are the victors in the next federal election, Conservative leader Poilievre has sworn to reverse this law.
Canadians should never be confident that any government of any political stripe should be able to influence what they can see online as long as the content is legal under existing legislation, of which there is plenty. This is especially true of the current Liberal government, which has repeatedly proven itself to be highly secretive and partisan to a fault.
It is appalling that most Canadians are likely not familiar with the very serious implications of this Bill for free speech and other freedoms we enjoy in Canada. This type of government control over what information citizens may consume is what writers have built dystopian narratives around for decades. And here we believed George Orwell et al were writing fiction. Time to wake up, Canadians, as freedoms lost are very difficult to regain.
She has published numerous articles in journals, magazines & other media on issues such as free trade, finance, entrepreneurship & women business owners. Ms. Swift is a past President of the Empire Club of Canada, a former Director of the CD Howe Institute, the Canadian Youth Business Foundation, SOS Children’s Villages, past President of the International Small Business Congress and current Director of the Fraser Institute. She was cited in 2003 & 2012 as one of the most powerful women in Canada by the Women’s Executive Network & is a recipient of the Queen’s Silver & Gold Jubilee medals.