from the fix-the-language dept
Canada’s Bill C-11, which will hand the country’s broadcast regulator new powers to set rules for all kinds of online video and audio content, was rushed through an undemocratic sham of a “review” and then passed in the House of Commons by the reigning Liberal government. Now, it’s sitting in the Senate where the last hope of preventing it rests on Senators sticking to their assertion that they won’t be pressured by a government that is clearly intent on making it law without addressing any of the myriad serious concerns about what it would do. In the mean time, the office of the Heritage Minister (the driving force behind C-11) seems intent on continuing with the pattern it has established ever since the bill was first introduced as C-10 in 2020: ignoring or dismissing all critics, and insisting that the actual text of the bill doesn’t matter.
Instead, the government wants everyone to focus on their “policy intentions” — the things they say they hope the bill will achieve, and their repeated promises that it won’t do anything else. Nobody is supposed to care that these “intentions” don’t line up with what the bill actually contains, or that there are countless signals that these promises are false. Following a bit of a Twitter fight with an official from the Heritage Office, the University of Ottawa’s Michael Geist laid out a damning list of these contradictions:
My tweet thread response notes that the disconnect between the government’s professed intent and the actual text in Bill C-11 has been a persistent issue:
- government claims intent isn’t to regulate user content (contradicted by the CRTC chair),
- government claims intent isn’t to include algorithmic manipulation (contradicted by the CRTC chair)
- government claims intent is to help digital creators (contradicted by the creators themselves),
- government claims intent is to avoid content regulation (undermined by the CRTC engaging in content regulation in the Radio Canada case)
- government claims intent is no Cancon quotas (undermined by the possibility of display quotas)
- government claims intent is to exclude video games and other similar content (currently included in the bill and will require policy direction the government won’t release to exclude)
- government claims intent is to leave regulations to an independent CRTC (yet it regularly seems to have pre-determined what the outcome will be)
- government claims intent is to ensure Bill C-11 is consistent with its trade obligations (the U.S. has now raised concerns with the bill and potential CUSMA violations)
- government claims intent is to help independent production sector (experts now concerned the bill will undermine decades-old policy that support the sector)
As Geist notes, all of these government promises could have been solidified in the actual bill with some clarifying amendments, many of which were among the more than 100 that were proposed — but instead the House of Commons rushed the clause-by-clause review of the bill and the voting on amendments at an absurd speed, imposing a completely unnecessary deadline that resulted in a near-total lack of debate and MPs voting on some amendments before the text had even been publicly released.
And so we find ourselves facing a bill that could usher in sweeping changes to the internet in Canada, impacting not just the big streaming platforms like Netflix that the government constantly insists are the real target, but just about every online media platform and the creators who use them. Who wants this bill? Certainly not Canadian content creators, and seemingly nobody except the government that is so intent on ramming it down the country’s throat.
But since the ruling Liberal party reached a deal that ensures them the near-unquestioning support of the left-wing NDP party in parliament, they seem intent on doing whatever they want when it comes to C-11, no matter how brazenly undemocratic. So all hope rests on the Senate, which refused to rush the bill through as C-10 last year and is famously labelled in Canada as the place of “sober second thought”, to block the bill or at least fix its most egregious problems. The advocacy group OpenMedia, which maintains an excellent FAQ about the problems with the bill, is calling on Canadians to let Senators know how important it is.