Parliament resumes today: Here are the top 5 digital issues MPs are facing
Canada’s Parliament is back in session, and MPs have a number of crucial digital rights issues on their plate
Canada’s Parliament is back in session after a long winter break, and MPs have no shortage of pressing digital rights issues to come to grips with.
It’s now just over three months since the Liberals, led by Justin Trudeau, swept into power. Although Trudeau reconvened MPs for a brief session in early December, today marks the start of the first substantial term of our 42nd Parliament.
This means the coming months are going to be crucial for setting a tone for the next four years. At a time when our basic digital freedoms are under threat from greedy telecom conglomerates, unaccountable spying, and closed-off trade deals, it’s vital that MPs start off on the right foot.
Here’s a quick overview of some of the key issues Canadians are looking to their elected representatives to tackle:
Bell and the Internet Emergency: Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains has a big choice to make. Telecom giant Bell want him to overturn landmark pro-customer choice rules that Canadians won from the CRTC last July. If Bell get their way, Canadians will be blocked from accessing ultra-fast fibre Internet through affordable indie ISPs, and will be forced to pay Big Telecom’s ridiculous rates. We’re pushing back by rallying over 60,000 Canadians to speak out, and by organizing a hard-hitting 65-page policy brief from top telecom experts asking Minister Bains to save our Internet choice. Legally, Bains has until July 22 to decide - but we’d like to see him come out much sooner and end the market uncertainty by putting a stop to Bell’s scheme. Add your voice to those speaking out at act.openmedia.org/emergency
Bill C-51: This Saturday will mark the 1-year anniversary of the introduction of Bill C-51 and its controversial spy powers, which were forced through Parliament last year by the previous government. So far, the Liberals have promised to repeal what they call the ‘problematic’ parts of the bill, and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says he plans to hold public consultations on what changes should be made. We’re still awaiting clarification on what these public consultations will look like, how the government will ensure that all Canadians will be engaged, and whether they will really be open to all options, including the full repeal most Canadians want.
Email your MP today, and let them know that C-51 is an issue you won’t settle on
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP): Negotiated for years in near-total secrecy, the TPP was presented as a fait accompli by Stephen Harper just weeks before the election. Experts have warned that it poses a grave threat to our Internet freedoms, and contains economically damaging copyright rules that could cost the Canadian economy millions. Right now, it looks like the Liberals are merely going through the motions of consulting Canadians, and have just confirmed they plan to sign Canada on to the deal, although they have yet to commit to ratification. Speak up at StopTheSecrecy.net
Spy Agency Oversight: Canada has long been one of a tiny handful of industrialized nations without any parliamentary oversight of government surveillance activities – an issue all the more pressing given the passage of Bill C-51 and the RCMP’s efforts to spy on Canadians without a warrant. Improved oversight was a top priority identified by the over 100,000 Canadians who took part in shaping our crowdsourced pro-privacy action plan last year. Check out the detailed recommendations we set forward based on your input. The good news is that Public Safety Minister Goodale has promised to strengthen oversight mechanisms, but we’ll need to keep up the pressure to ensure Canada gets the world-class oversight system we deserve. Support the Protect Our Privacy Coalition at OurPrivacy.ca as we work for effective oversight of our spy agencies.
Investing in Internet infrastructure: Years of under-investment have left Canada falling far behind our industrial counterparts. It’s past time and common sense for the government to devote significant investments to promoting faster, cheaper next-generation Internet services across the country, particularly when it comes to rural and northern areas that have been left in the slow lane by previous governments. The Liberals have promised significant investments in Canada’s physical infrastructure, such as roads and public transportation, but they have yet to make any commitment to ensure all Canadians have affordable access to world class Internet. Join our call for faster, more affordable Internet at UnblockCanada.ca
All in all, MPs have no shortage of serious issues to tackle between now and their summer holiday in mid-June. We'll keep the pressure on all representatives in the House of Commons to encourage them to meet and respect their constituents' digital needs and priorities. Canadians deserve a world class, affordable internet, free of surveillance and censorship.