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View Anthony Housefather Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
As a member who rarely gets riled up or rarely tries to be very partisan, I have to express some discomfort as to some of what has been said already today.
The idea that somehow Liberals—and in this case also the Bloc and the NDP, because all three parties voted to remove clause 3—are somehow less dedicated to freedom of expression than the Conservatives is somewhat shocking to me. I can point to numerous examples over time of the Conservatives being less charter-prone than the other parties, but I won't right now. I find that to have been an unfortunate type of allegation that really should be withdrawn, and if I wanted to point to support of a law that was recently adopted that uses the notwithstanding clause, I could.
With respect to the question of what happened the other day, we had a clause that is going to be dealt with by other amendments to the bill. There's an original clause in the bill that deals with user-generated content. There's G-13. There's another amendment that we intend to introduce. They all deal with user-generated content and ensuring that users are not subject to CRTC regulations. They are not broadcasters.
The Conservatives suddenly have raised the issue of the removal of section 4.1 and argue that this is potentially the ultimate violation of freedom of expression in the charter. They fail to acknowledge exactly what Ms. Dabrusin said: When we came up with section 4.1, the Conservatives proposed their own amendment, which Mr. Rayes put forward—CPC-5—which would in itself have eliminated the provisions of 4.1 for those people who are using online undertakings that have more than 250,000 subscribers in Canada or receive more than $50 million per year in advertising, like Facebook, for example.
This section would have thus said that Facebook, with 24 million users in Canada, was not covered by proposed section 4.1. Essentially, they're saying if you are a larger undertaking, you could be a broadcaster and yet you'd be outside 4.1. If this was such a violation of freedom of expression, why would they say that a larger online undertaking could then be outside the exemption?
It's a frustrating type of thing to hear. I just feel that it was a manufactured issue to try to scare and confuse Canadians about something that is not the case.
Personally, I think a reasonable solution would be to do a charter statement once we have all of the amendments adopted in the bill. Then we stop. We don't put the bill back to the House. We wait. Once all the amendments are adopted, we have a charter statement that then calls upon the Department of Justice to review their initial charter statement. We say that in light of everything that's been adopted as amendments to the bill, we direct them to amend the charter statement and then either confirm to us that there's been no impact or else tell us what the impact has been. We don't send the bill back to the House until we get that.
If that charter statement causes us to rethink things, we then go back and review those clauses in the bill. However, I don't believe that it makes sense to have a charter statement in the middle of amendments on the bill. That essentially says that although we're halfway through our work and we don't have amendments that cover this subject, they're asking us in the interim to give a charter statement. It's very strange to me.
Therefore, I don't think we should suspend work. I think clause 3 should be eliminated for sure. I know Ms. Dabrusin has to put that forward at a future date. I have no problem that there's a time limit for charter statements when it's the time to do it, or a time limit for the ministers to appear when it's time to do it, but it does seem weird that we're accepting the premise that somehow the removal of this one clause, without considering other amendments coming forward, should halt the work of the committee.
I find this to be an exceptionally partisan manoeuvre and a really unfortunate one, given the good collaboration on this committee up until now. It doesn't seek any type of consensus whatsoever, but instead assumes the worst for something that was never intended that way and that three of the four parties on the committee supported. The members of the fourth party themselves did not propose to include everyone, but rather, they proposed something that would exempt people from section 4.1.
It is not fair where we are now; I get it, but I also want to work with my colleagues to find a solution. To be honest, I think the right solution would be to go through the bill, adopt whatever amendments we want to adopt, and stop. Don't send the bill back to the House. Don't approve the bill. Ask for a charter statement from the department at that point and say that we want to know what the effect is of all the amendments, and then call the ministers to appear before the committee at that point. If we're satisfied, we go on and send the bill back. If we're not satisfied, we go back in the bill and fix whatever we think we need to fix.
That would be my humble request to committee members. I just don't see why we're accepting a false premise, and I think this is taking us on a false premise.
Thank you very much.
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