Senate must give Bill C-10 the scrutiny the government refused

Sweeping new Internet regulations cannot be forced through without sound democratic process

June 22, 2021 — Early this morning, at 1:30 am EST, the House of Commons voted to pass controversial Bill C-10: An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act. After several weeks of the government imposing extreme restrictions to debate and due process for the Bill, C-10 will now move on to the Senate for consideration, where concerned Canadians hope it will finally be given the attention, debate, and scrutiny it was denied by the House of Commons. 

Bill C-10 poses a significant threat to the open Internet, and introduces sweeping new powers for the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). Yet despite overwhelming criticism from Internet experts, digital creators and Internet users across the country, the government has outright dismissed engaging with its critics, refused to acknowledge the substantive implications of the Bill, and in some cases resorted to outright lies about its contents and potential ramifications. 

“This is an abomination for our democracy – the government’s handling of Bill C-10 has been a complete disaster from start to finish,” said OpenMedia Campaigns Director Matt Hatfield. “The government was so desperate to pass Bill C-10, they’ve thrown out our democratic processes along the way. Not only did they refuse to do an open public consultation; but even the basic norms of how any legislation should be thoroughly debated, amended, and voted on, were thrown out the window. Minister Guilbeault even stooped to openly lying about the substance of the Bill and its implications, attempting to gaslight critics in their genuine concern. It’s truly embarrassing. ”

Hatfield continued, “The Senate absolutely must step in to do the job the House failed at –  taking its time, speaking to all stakeholders, and analyzing the implications of this sweeping legislation.Before C-10 moves forward, they must ensure it is either completely fixed, or dismissed outright for the disaster that it is. If our government was actually serious about supporting Canadian culture online, they’d start by listening to the thousands of Canadian creators who are already flourishing in the digital environment – despite a complete lack of support from our cultural industries. Instead, the government has turned its back on these artists and Internet users, and rushed through a nightmare bill that actually hurts Canada’s digital creators, just to prop up the bottom line of our vertically integrated legacy media.”

As the summer recess approached, the federal government has resorted to increasingly desperate last minute efforts to pass Bill C-10. These tactics included forcing time limitations on any discussion of the Bill; forcing MPs to vote on dozens of amendments without discussion, debate, or even reading out the amendment’s text; overruling their own committee chair; and screwing up basic procedure such that the Speaker of the House declared their own amendments null and void.

First tabled last November, Bill C-10 was intended to expand the CRTC’s broadcasting mandate to also cover online streaming services. But the Bill became highly controversial after the government removed an exemption for user generated content in section 4.1 during late committee consideration. By removing 4.1, the government gave the CRTC broad discretionary power to apply the full scope of broadcasting standards and regulation to all user audiovisual speech on the Internet, including podcasts, YouTube videos, memes, and much else, raising clear concerns about the future of the open Internet in Canada. 

Despite some limiting recent amendments, Bill C-10 continues to give the CRTC broad power to instruct online platforms to modify their pages, feeds and search results to display a set percentage of regulator-approved “Canadian” content. This means that many of the concerns about a government agency picking examples of our user speech to promote or hide from us continue to apply across online platforms, including on YouTube, podcasts, TikTok, and social media feeds.

Individuals concerned about the House of Commons’ undemocratic handling of C-10 can email the members of the Senate Transport and Communications Committee and request they thoroughly scrutinize the Bill, at https://openmedia.org/SenateC10.

Over the past year, over 33,000 members of the OpenMedia community have spoken out against Bill C-10.

OpenMedia works to keep the Internet open, affordable, and surveillance-free. We create community-driven campaigns to engage, educate, and empower people to safeguard the Internet.

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