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View Alain Rayes Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I will now set aside the debate over poutine and return to Bill C-10. I'll start over more or less from the beginning because I don't know at what point the interpretation stopped.
First of all, I'd like to thank all the committee members for having agreed to continue to debate the motion put forward by my colleague, Ms. Harder. The principle she is defending in her motion—freedom of expression—underpins the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I believe that it is an issue that all members of Parliament, whatever their political party may be, should take into consideration in any future plans.
Some people listening in may not know it, but for every bill, the Minister of Justice has to table recommendations, or at least an opinion, to ensure that the bill complies with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and freedom of expression.
That being the case, I would ask all committee members and those who are listening to consult the public statement published by the Minister of Justice on November 18, 2020, concerning BillC-10. He had done an analysis of the bill's proposed clause 4.1. However, now that the Liberals decided just over a week ago to delete this proposed clause, the minister's analysis of issues pertaining to freedom of expression and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms can no longer be applied in the same manner.
Last weekend, in the media and on social networks, the Liberals, in this instance Minister Guilbeault and his friends tried to convince Canadians and Quebeckers that the Conservatives were against culture, did not want to defend culture and were opposed to the bill to amend the Broadcasting Act. I want to emphasize that this is not at all the case. That's not what the debate is about.
On the contrary, from the very outset, I think everyone would agree that all members of the committee showed a genuine desire to move this admittedly imperfect bill forward. This is demonstrated by the fact that after various consultations, 118 amendments were put forward, including 27 by the government itself and by Liberal MPs on the committee. This shows just how poorly the bill had been cobbled together from the getgo.
According to our analysis, by deleting this clause from the bill without prior notice just over a week ago, the government gave the CRTC the power to regulate social network users who stream content, instead of going after the major players, the GAFAs of the world, as it claims to be doing. Basically, we agree that regulation is needed to make online undertakings subject to the Broadcasting Act, on the same basis as conventional broadcasters.
We're not at war against culture; the motion we're debating today has nothing to do with that. By deleting clause 4.1 as proposed in clause 3 of the bill, the government itself is in violation. We can now no longer continue our work without obtaining a new opinion from the Minister of Justice who, in passing, is a Liberal. I therefore have trouble understanding why my Liberal colleagues and the department are opposed to our request, which is that we obtain a new opinion from the Minister of Justice. We would like him to appear before our committee to clarify the matter and tell us whether the deletion of this clause from the bill constitutes a violation of freedom of expression
Furthermore, it's worrisome to see that the minister, while taking part in a broadcast over the weekend, was unable to explain why the bill had proposed the addition of this clause to the act initially, nor why he had afterwards decided to completely delete it without providing any other information or context.
If the opposition parties, namely the Conservative party, the NDP, the Bloc Québécois and the Green party, were the only ones to ask questions about it, then the people listening to us might think that they are only doing so on a partisan basis. However, numerous experts on freedom of expression or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including university professors and former CRTC commissioners and administrators, raised a red flag to say that a genuine violation had been created by the government itself.
Some previous quotes from the Prime Minister and the minister himself indicated that they were in favour of Internet regulation and Internet content. That, believe me, is scary. So when that in last Friday's debate on freedom of expression, the government tried to muzzle us by putting an end to the debate, it became even scarier.
We need to take the time to do things properly. Even if, in order to protect freedom of expression, we have to prolong our study of Bill C-10 by a week or two weeks or even three weeks, then we will be able to feel very proud of having done so.
We are not challenging culture. We want to protect our culture and our broadcasters. We all want to make sure that regulation is fair and equitable for online undertakings and conventional broadcasters. At the moment, a violation has occurred in the process through which we are ruling on amendments clause by clause. We will not be able to continue our work until we have received an answer on this matter.
As I said earlier, former CRTC commissioner Peter Menzies said in an interview that Bill C-10 not only contravened freedom of expression, but was also an all out attack on it, and consequently on the very foundations of democracy.
We also heard from Michael Geist, emeritus professor of law at the University of Ottawa. He is so well known in his field that the government funds his projects. He is anything but a Conservative or a Liberal; he is completely non-partisan. He was even very critical of the former Conservative government. Anyone who has done their homework properly and checked his comments on Google will know this. He said that he had never, in the history of Canada, seen a government that was so anti-Internet.
There were also all the other witnesses and groups that defend rights and freedoms that made public statements, including the director of OpenMedia.
I'm also thinking of James Turk, the director of Ryerson University's Centre for Free Expression, who said that the Trudeau government, by amending Bill C-10, was planning to give the CRTC the power to regulate content generated by users of websites like YouTube. He believed that this was dangerous, that the government was going too far, and that it had to be stopped.
I'm not making any of this up. I'm not even citing all the policy analysts who deal in such issues. Unfortunately, I must say that we're not hearing much about this in Quebec yet. The idea is only beginning to percolate. However, I believe that analysts in English-speaking Canada have understood what the Liberal government tried to do.
I hope that my colleagues will be able to set partisan considerations aside. God knows that there ought not to be any when it's a matter of freedom of expression. We need to wait until we have a clear opinion on this matter before we can continue to do a clause-by-clause study of the bill.
If anyone should feel responsible for the fact that the process is taking a long time, it's the Minister of Canadian Heritage himself. To begin with, his government prorogued Parliament. Secondly, this government, which has been in power for almost six years now, spent all this time introducing a bill to enact broadcasting legislation. Thirdly, it decided on its own to delete an entire clause from the bill, the end result of which was an attack on freedom of expression.
For all these reasons, we need to take the time required to do things properly. The minister can attack us all he wants, but at least I'll be able to sleep at night because I know that I'll be working to protect the rights and freedoms of Canadians and Quebeckers. I can rest easy for having done so when faced with a government that is trying to attack these freedoms.
I hope that my colleagues will support us so that we can ask the Minister of Canadian Heritage and the Minister of Justice for clarification, on the one hand, and also ask the Minister of Justice for a new legal opinion so that we can continue to do our work as the Parliament of Canada's legislators.
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