OTTAWA, Ontario, June 7, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — Political debate regarding the Canadian government’s controversial internet regulation Bill C-10 will now be restricted to only five more hours after a motion to limit debate on the bill at committee gained enough support to pass in the House of Commons this morning.
Last Thursday, the Liberal government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau introduced a motion to limit debate of Minister of Canadian Heritage Steven Guilbeault’s Bill C-10, or “Act to amend the Broadcasting Act.” The motion came about because Guilbeault claimed opposition filibustering from Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) MPs at committee hearings of the bill were a form of “obstruction.”
“It will finally put an end to six weeks of systematic obstruction of the bill by the Conservative Party,” said Guilbeault.
The motion passed in a 181-147 vote with the support of the Bloc Québécois. Voting against the gag order were CPC, NDP, and Green MPs.
The motion of the text reads that in relation to “Bill C-10, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts,” no more than “five further hours shall be allotted to the consideration of the committee stage of the bill.”
“That, at the expiry of the time provided for the committee stage, any proceedings before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage on the said bill shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this order, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment,” reads the motion sponsored by Liberal MP Mona Fortier.
Bill C-10 would force companies such as YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook to remove content deemed “harmful” within 24 hours. In essence, it would let the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) regulate the internet and social media in line with their regulations for broadcasting services.
The CRTC is the federal body tasked with regulating TV and radio in Canada, but has had to keep a hands-off approach to regulating the internet.
According to Dr. Michael Geist, law professor at University of Ottawa and Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law, placing a “gag order” on a debate of a Bill at a committee hearing is not something that has been used in a long time.
“As expected, the Bill C-10 gag order passes 181-147 with Liberal and Bloc support. Committee limited to 5 more hours. Many potential amendments will not be considered. This process to shut down committee work hasn’t been used in 20 years and never for this short period of time,” tweeted Geist.
CPC MP Rachael Harder blasted Guilbeault last week for trying to prevent MPs from voicing their concerns about the bill at committee hearings of the bill.
“How low can you go, that’s the name of the game when it comes to free speech with this government and it’s attack, time, and time and time again,” said Harder.
“What this government is doing now is nothing less than a gag order. Censoring the voices of creators wasn’t enough. Now, they’re having to stop members of parliament from debating this atrocious bill at committee,” she continued.
As a retort to Harder’s comments, Guilbeault said that without placing limits on debates it would take “months” for the bill to be debated.
Harder said that the Liberal government is so “determined to rush it though” that they are going as far to “silence” our “voices” by shutting down debate on Bill C-10: “Now, the government doesn’t want any more problems to be discovered with their bill, which is plagued with them by the way, and so now they’re shutting us down. Why?”
Guilbeault responded by saying, “If we continue going at the rate we’re going now, in six months’ time from now the bill would still be in front of the committee.”
Last year, the Trudeau government introduced Guilbeault’s Bill C-10 that would regulate certain online media services through the creation of a new class of broadcaster called “online undertakings.” The new regulations would be done through amendments to Canada’s Broadcasting Act.
The original draft of Bill C-10 had a Section 4.1 exemption clause for “user content” posted on social media by individuals, meaning such posts would originally have not fallen under CRTC regulations.
However, a recent amendment to Bill C-10 through the Heritage Committee removed the Section 4.1 provision, which could mean that the federal government will regulate what people post online.
The Liberals, NDP, and Bloc party members recently rejected a CPC amendment to Bill C-10, which would have brought back safeguards for user-generated social media content during a clause-by-clause review of Bill C-10 by the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.
Recently, the Heritage Committee put a hold on Bill C-10 until the Department of Justice looked at it to determine whether or not the recent amendments violate one’s free speech granted in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms with regard to posts on social media.
After a review, the government said in explanatory note on the bill that it does not impede Canadians’ freedom of speech.
Bill C-10 has come under fire from the former head of the CRTC, Peter Menzies, who said, “Putting the CRTC in charge of the entire internet, I mean, that’s like putting a logging company in charge of the Great Bear Rainforest … it’s not going to end well.”
Currently, Bill C-10 is at second reading stage. Parliament is scheduled to wrap up by June 23 for summer break, so the government will likely try to ensure it gets passed in the House of Commons by then. It is unlikely to make it through Canada’s Senate for a full review in that timeframe, however.
In a May 17 open letter addressed to Trudeau, critics called upon the Trudeau government to halt all regulation of the internet, saying there would be “unintended consequences for the free and open internet in Canada” from any “overreaching regulatory policies.”
Guilbeault recently struggled to give a clear answer to justify why a committee he chaired moved to have personal social media posts placed under government oversight.
CPC leader MP Erin O’Toole said a future Conservative government would do away with Bill C-10.