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View Chris Warkentin Profile
CPC (AB)
Colleagues, I'm going to call this meeting to order.
This meeting is the 38th of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics. We are resuming our study today on the protection of privacy and reputation on platforms such as Pornhub. I would like to remind colleagues that today's meeting is televised and will be available on the House of Commons website.
I would like to welcome Minister Guilbeault, Minister of Canadian Heritage, for the first hour. Accompanying him from the Department of Canadian Heritage, we have Joëlle Montminy, senior assistant deputy minister, cultural affairs; and Pierre-Marc Perreault, acting director, digital citizen initiative.
Minister, I'm going to turn it over to you for your opening statement, after which we'll have some questions for you.
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, members of the committee, good morning.
I would first like to acknowledge that I am joining you from Montreal, on the traditional territory of the Mohawk and other Haudenosaunee peoples.
Thank you for inviting me to speak to you today. With me, as you said, are Joëlle Montminy, senior assistant deputy minister, cultural affairs, and Pierre-Marc Perreault, acting director, digital citizen initiative.
Like you and many other Canadians, I am concerned by the disturbing rise and spread of hateful, violent and exploitive content online and on social media.
As a legislator and father of four children, I find some of the content of these platforms to be profoundly inhuman.
I am also deeply troubled by the consequences and the echoes of that content in the real world.
The overall benefits of the digital economy and social media are without question. In fact, I published a book, shortly before I took up politics, wherein I talked about the benefits of the digital economy, of artificial intelligence in particular, but also about some unintended negative consequences.
In Canada, more than 9 out of 10 adults use at least one online platform, and since the beginning of the pandemic, online platforms have played an even more important role in our lives.
We use social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube to stay connected to our families, friends and colleagues. We use them to work, to conduct business, to reach new markets and audiences, to make our voices and opinions heard, and to engage in necessary and vital democratic debate. However, we have also seen how social media can have negative and very harmful impacts.
On a daily basis, there are Internet users who share damaging content, either to spread hate speech, the sexual exploitation of children, terrorist propaganda, or words meant to incite violence.
This content has led and contributed to violent outbursts such as the attack on the Islamic Cultural Centre in Quebec City in 2017, and similar attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019.
Canadians and people all over the world have watched these events and others unfold on the news with shock and fear. We all understand the connections between these events and hateful, harmful online discourse. We worry about our own safety and security online. We worry about what our children and our loved ones will be exposed to.
According to a recent poll by the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, an overwhelming 93% of Canadians believe that online hate and racism are a problem, and at least 60% believe that the government has an obligation to prevent the spread of hateful and racist content online.
In addition, the poll revealed that racialized groups in Canada are more than three times more likely to experience racism online than non-racialized Canadians.
Since the beginning of the COVID‑19 pandemic, we have seen a rise in anti-Asian hate speech on the Internet and a steady increase in anti-Semitic rhetoric, further fuelled by recent events.
A June 2020 study by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue found that Canadians use more than 6,600 online services, pages and accounts hosted on various social media platforms to convey ideologies tinged with white supremacism, misogyny or extremism. This type of content wreaks havoc and destroys lives. It is intimidating and undermines constructive exchange. In doing so, it prevents us from having a true democratic debate and undermines free speech.
The facts speak for themselves. We must act, and we must act now. We believe that every person has the right to express themselves and participate in Internet exchanges to the fullest extent possible, without fear and without intimidation or concern for their safety. We believe that the Internet should be an inclusive place where we can safely express ourselves.
Our government is therefore committed to taking concrete steps to address harmful content online, particularly if the content advocates child sexual exploitation, terrorism, violence, hate speech, and non-consensual sharing of intimate images.
In fact, this is one of the priorities outlined in the mandate letter given to me by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. So we have begun the process to develop legislation that will address the concerns of Canadians.
Over the past few months my office and I have engaged with over 140 stakeholders from both civil society organizations and the digital technology sector regarding this issue. This has included seven round-table discussions. We also spoke with indigenous groups, racialized Canadians, elected provincial officials, municipal officials and our international partners to assess our options and begin to develop a proposed approach.
In addition, given the global nature of the problem, I have hosted a virtual meeting with my counterparts from Australia, Finland, France and Germany—who were part of the multi-stakeholder working group on diversity of content online—to discuss the importance of a healthy digital ecosystem and how to work collectively.
I am also working closely with my colleagues the ministers of Justice, Public Safety, Women and Gender Equality,Diversity and Inclusion and Youthas well asInnovation, Science and Industry to find the best possible solution.
Our collaborative work aims to ensure that Canada's approach is focused on protecting Canadians and continued respect for their rights, including freedom of opinion and expression under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The goal is to develop a proposal that establishes an appropriate balance between protecting speech and preventing harm.
Let me be clear. Our objective is not to reduce freedom of expression but to increase it for all users, and to ensure that no voices are being suppressed because of harmful content.
We want to build a society where radicalization, hatred, and violence have no place, where everyone is free to express themselves, where exchanges are not divisive, but an opportunity to connect, understand, and help each other. We are continuing our work and hope to act as quickly and effectively as possible. I sincerely hope that I can count on the committee's support and move forward to build a more transparent, accountable and equitable digital world.
I thank you for your attention and will be happy to answer any questions you may have.
View Chris Warkentin Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you, Minister.
We'll turn to Ms. Stubbs for the first question.
View Shannon Stubbs Profile
CPC (AB)
View Shannon Stubbs Profile
2021-06-07 11:08
Thank you, Chair.
Minister, thanks for being here.
Just to start, do you think Bill C-10 is adequate to combat child sexual abuse material and rape and non-consensual material online?
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
I was invited to talk about our upcoming legislation regarding online harms, which I'm happy to do. If this committee would like to invite me to talk about Bill C-10, I would be happy to appear at another time to do that.
View Shannon Stubbs Profile
CPC (AB)
View Shannon Stubbs Profile
2021-06-07 11:08
I'll take that as a “no” for Bill C-10.
Witnesses said previously that Canada's Criminal Code “child pornography” definition is among the world's broadest. It bans images, audio and written forms. Platforms are already liable for circulating illegal user-generated content. There are circumstances in which a company becomes liable for something that somebody else said or did if the company knew about it in advance and published it anyway, or if the company was notified about it after the fact and failed to take action. These situations are very well documented with MindGeek and Pornhub. It seems the real and disturbing issue is a lack of application of the law and its enforcement.
In January, you said that within a few weeks you were going to create a regulator to stop child sexual abuse material and sharing of non-consensual images online. I'm just wondering why there hasn't been any serious progress on that. I have a couple of questions about that for you from survivors. What's the delay?
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
I respectfully disagree with the premise of the question. What we see here in Canada, and frankly, all around the world, is that the tools we have to deal with these harms in the physical world just aren't adapted to deal with them in the virtual world.
Let me give you an example. In 2019, the RCMP saw a 1,106% increase from 2014 of reports regarding child sexual exploitation online. This exploitation disproportionately impacts girls. In 2019, the RCMP found that girls made up 62% of identified Canadian victims depicted in online child sexual exploitation material.
I did say I was hoping to introduce this legislation in January. Unfortunately, the systemic obstruction by the Conservative Party regarding Bill C-10 has prevented me from doing so. However, I am still hoping to table this bill as soon as possible.
View Shannon Stubbs Profile
CPC (AB)
View Shannon Stubbs Profile
2021-06-07 11:11
Wow, what a ridiculous and partisan evasion on your part. What I would suggest is that if you hadn't spent months and months figuring out how to regulate Canadians' freedom of expression in their Facebook, Twitter and social media posts, maybe you would have had time to do a little work on this crucial issue.
The facts you read out are correct, of course, and deeply disturbing. Let me see if you have any answers at all on the legislation that you say is necessary for regulating online harm.
In terms of this regulator, what rules is it actually going to enforce, will it be the CRTC and what enforcement mechanisms will be in place?
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
Obviously, I'm here to talk about the objective of the legislation. Since it hasn't been tabled, I can't go into detail about it. However, once the legislation has been tabled, I would be happy to come before this committee again and testify as to the details and mechanics of said legislation.
View Shannon Stubbs Profile
CPC (AB)
View Shannon Stubbs Profile
2021-06-07 11:12
I think you have spoken about the concept of having a 24-hour takedown rule, so that once it has been notified that material is there, there would be a provision for that. I think that's a good idea. Of course, the trouble is that when child sexual abuse material or non-consensual images have been up for even 24 hours, they can have hundreds or thousands of viewers—millions in the case of Pornhub and MindGeek. We've heard from victims that explicit images of them were online for three years before they found out. In the case of Serena Fleites, hers was shared and downloaded all over her school before she knew. Then she got into a never-ending back and forth to try to get the platforms to be accountable and to take down the materials.
Can you explain or enlighten us about what prevention mechanisms might actually be in place?
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
This is a very good question. My office and my department have spoken as well with victims and victims' organizations. What we want to do with this legislation is to really shift the challenge for victims of having to try to get these images taken down—if we're referring to images that we would find on Pornhub, for example. We're trying to shift the burden of doing this from the individual to the state. It would be up to the Government of Canada, through a regulator, to do that, as it is in other countries, such as Australia, with their e-safety commissioner.
That's the goal we're pursuing with the tabling of this legislation. You are correct; we are also working to ensure that not only are the images taken down but they are removed from websites or associate websites to prevent, for example, the download of such images. They're not going to be downloaded and uploaded and downloaded and uploaded, as we've seen in many cases.
View Shannon Stubbs Profile
CPC (AB)
View Shannon Stubbs Profile
2021-06-07 11:14
Do you also believe that companies must be more responsible for ensuring that the content they are publishing does not contain minors and has the express and explicit consent of the individuals depicted?
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
Companies should abide by Canadian laws. Whether they're online companies or physical companies, there should be no distinction. As I said earlier, the challenge we face now is that the tools we have to deal with these online harms just aren't adapted to the virtual world.
View Chris Warkentin Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you, Ms. Stubbs.
We'll turn to Mr. Sorbara for the next six minutes.
View Francesco Sorbara Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Chair, and good morning to everybody. It's nice to be here this Monday morning, and again, welcome, Minister. It's great to see you here today. Thank you for all the hard work that you and your team are undertaking for all Canadians.
Minister, the first thing I would like to inquire about is the following. In mid-January, the Canadian Race Relations Foundation conducted a survey on Canadians' perceptions and recommendations on the spread of hate speech and racism on social media platforms. The survey shows that racialized groups are three times more likely to be exposed to or targeted by violence on social media. The proliferation of such content can result in hate crimes, which have gone up seven per cent this year across the country. These numbers have resonated painfully with our own recent history. Just four years ago, six people were murdered as they gathered for the evening prayer at the Grand Mosque in Quebec City. Islamophobia and xenophobia motivated this act. We learned shortly after that the perpetrator was radicalized through social media.
People here in Canada are harmed and victimized by hateful, violent, extremist, terrorist and radicalizing content. The online environment amplifies and spreads hateful messages against minority communities and the disenfranchised in ways we have never seen before. It's actually quite terrifying, to be honest.
Given that creating new regulations for social media platforms is in your mandate letter, and you mentioned you would bring legislation forward soon, could you provide us with an update on the essential work you are doing to protect Canadians online?
Thank you, Minister.
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
As I said, we have been hard at work for more than a year to prepare this legislation. We've held consultations with, as I said, in my case, more than 140 organizations. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice also held some consultations on some of the more legal aspects of the legislation and issues pertaining to the Criminal Code.
It is a complex issue. There are only a handful of countries in the world that have introduced legislation to do that, namely France and Germany; I spoke earlier about Australia, and the United Kingdom tabled a white paper on this just this past December. I was on the phone recently with the heritage minister in the U.K. to discuss that.
It is a complex issue, but nonetheless an issue we want to tackle. You referred to the 24-hour takedown notion, which is, in fact, in the mandate letter the Prime Minister gave to me at the beginning of the mandate. It's a more novel element; very few countries are doing that. The Australians are just introducing this in their legislation. We want to ensure that we find this right balance, and that's what we're working towards. It is still my intention to introduce the legislation in the very near future, but let me give you, perhaps, one other example of how online hate affects Canadians, and more specifically, indigenous people in this country.
I want to give you two quick examples, if I may. In 2018, two women in Flin Flon, Manitoba were charged with uttering threats and inciting hatred after posting a photo of a vandalized car, saying that indigenous people would be killed and calling for a “shoot an Indian day”. In 2020, two known nationalist groups called the Proud Boys and the Sons of Odin used social media to threaten and attack members of the Wet'suwet'en community during the pipeline protest. In fact, data from Statistics Canada show that police-reported hate crimes against indigenous people are on the rise. Between 2016 and 2018, incidents targeting first nations, Métis and Inuit communities rose by 17% during those two years alone.
View Francesco Sorbara Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Minister.
I have a follow-up question on what we are seeing in terms of some content that is being posted online and its negative impact on various communities.
With that, communities across Canada are extremely worried about the rise of Islamophobia, hate speech online, as you just mentioned, towards our indigenous communities, and other forms of prejudice that have only intensified during this pandemic. We've all seen that words can lead to violence.
As parliamentarians, we recognize that we all have a duty to lead by example; that is to say, to engage in respectful dialogues, to be open to debates of ideas and to hear the positions of Canadians in order to work for a society where everyone is free to flourish with dignity.
Minister, can you tell us more about what our government is doing to fight the promotion of hatred and violence online?
Thank you.
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
This is really an important point. There are some people out there—a minority, clearly—who would advocate that we shouldn't intervene and that there should be no laws whatsoever regarding the Internet in any way. What happens on the Internet stays on the Internet. Well, it's clearly not the case.
In June 2020, the Institute for Strategic Dialogue published a report on right-wing extremism in Canada, as I said earlier, identifying more than 6,000 right-wing extremist channels, pages, groups and accounts. Since 2014, Canadians—inspired in whole or in part by extreme views they've gathered online—have killed 21 people in this country and wounded 41. This idea that this stays on the Internet is simply false.
Notwithstanding that, we haven't waited until the introduction of this legislation. For two years now, we have been funding an initiative called the digital citizenship initiative, whereby we're working with victims groups and with academics around the country to increase the level of online literacy for Canadians, to help them detect false news and to help them recognize hate speech and extremist groups online.
View Chris Warkentin Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you, Mr. Sorbara.
We're going to turn to Madame Gaudreau now.
Madame Gaudreau.
View Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Good morning, Minister. I hope you are well on this Monday, as we approach the end of the parliamentary session.
First of all, I congratulate you on all the work you have done on Bill C‑10. Of course, I am very disappointed with what is happening right now. In December, the committee made a point of meeting with witnesses to get to the bottom of everything that was going on with child pornography. However, because we are on the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, we had to address other issues.
Today, I would like to shed some light on all of the testimony that we have heard. Initially, our motion was to invite Pornhub executives. We've heard a lot of comments, and I'd like to express a concern that I have.
We talked about the Five Eyes group and how this is a global issue. That being said, our current position is unfortunately not at the forefront. As you said earlier, other countries have already introduced similar legislation or are in the process of doing so. Canada does not have any concrete bills in the works on this topic.
How is Canada positioning itself? How do we position ourselves internationally in terms of protecting our fundamental rights?
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you, Ms. Gaudreau. Good morning. I wish you a good Monday as well.
I am as disappointed as you are to see the lack of ambition of some of the other parties in the House with respect to the passage of Bill C‑10. However, we are not here to talk about that.
Canada is among the lead countries in addressing this issue. The countries I named earlier, which can be counted on the fingers of one hand, are among the only ones that are currently taking action.
It was at Canada's initiative that a coalition of countries was created that are committed to working together, not only on the issue of hate speech and other online harm, but also on cultural issues. Several countries are very interested in what we are doing with Bill C‑10 and with respect to media compensation. This sort of informal coalition of countries is working collaboratively at Canada's initiative. In a few weeks, an announcement will be made about this joint international work.
Of course, a country like ours needs to have legislation that addresses the issue of online harm. However, this is indeed a global problem, and it needs to be addressed on a global level. That's why we formed this coalition of countries. Right now, there are only five of us, but I suspect that before long, many more people will be around the table.
View Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Profile
BQ (QC)
It is reassuring to hear that. I hope that other countries will be on board, because this is a real problem. Every witness we've heard told us that. We are unable to legislate well with the tools we have, especially with regard to uploads and downloads.
There was another thing that really upset me. Witnesses told us that the more we legislate, the more there will be an increase in these misdeeds on the dark Web.
How are we going to do this? There are so many solutions, and I'm the first one to be overwhelmed by it all.
How will we get it right and sort things out to curtail these reprehensible activities insofar as possible and put an end to their proliferation on the dark web?
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
That's an excellent question.
I would like to clarify something first. Regarding online cultural content issues, which are addressed in Bill C‑10, obviously some political parties have decided to join the big companies like Google and YouTube rather than support our artists. As for media compensation, Facebook reacted very strongly in Australia.
As for online harm and hate speech, several social media platforms have publicly called for government intervention, perhaps because they feel they are losing control of the situation. I'm not saying that they all have. I've personally met with most of these large platforms that have a presence in Canada. They obviously won't agree with everything that's going to be in the legislation—I've never seen a company agree with all of it. They do agree that more and more governments need to step in on this issue to help them.
Let me come back to the argument about the dark web. It's somewhat like saying that we should not put criminal sanctions in the laws, and eliminate them all instead, otherwise people will hide to commit their crimes. It may happen, but that's no reason to do nothing.
Honestly, the percentage of people who have the technical skills to access the dark web is very small. So we need to put the necessary laws in place. We won't solve everything, but with these laws we will solve a lot of the problem.
View Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Profile
BQ (QC)
If I have a few seconds left, Mr. Chair, I'd like to ask one last question.
I am still a new member of the House, and when I came in, I found that our approach to privacy was identity-based. Earlier, you mentioned countries like France and Germany. In the previous session, we apprised ourselves of a lot of reports, including on Estonia, which has taken the lead.
My concern is about hacking and traceability of content on the web. I am worried about that. Do you think it is indeed urgent for Canada to prepare for this? Right now, there are a lot of international companies that are laughing at us a little because we don't protect our basic rights enough.
What do you think about that?
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
If I understood your question correctly, I think you're referring to the issue of personal data online, a topic that I'm very interested in and which was actually part of the last book I wrote.
Of course, I am not sponsoring this bill, but I would be happy to discuss it with you at other times, Ms. Gaudreau.
View Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Profile
BQ (QC)
Excellent.
Do I have any time left, Mr. Chair?
View Chris Warkentin Profile
CPC (AB)
You are out of time. Thank you for asking.
View Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you very much, Minister.
View Chris Warkentin Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Angus, we'll turn to you.
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you, Minister, for coming today.
I'd like to ask you right off the top, on what date did the cabinet begin to discuss the issues of the allegations of sexual violence against young people on Pornhub?
When did cabinet start to talk about the Pornhub issue?
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
As you know, there is confidentiality around cabinet discussions, so I'm not at liberty to disclose this information.
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
Okay.
Minister Bill Blair told us the government was creating this new regulator. Is this new regulator going to be the CRTC?
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
Again, as I said to your colleague earlier, I am here to discuss the objectives of the legislation. In terms of the details of the legislation, that's not possible until the bill is tabled, but I would be happy to come back and testify at the committee.
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
Are you saying that Bill C-10 is not covering Pornhub?
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
Bill C-10, as I've said a number of times, is about cultural content. It's about ensuring that the web giants pay their fair share, and that our artists are fairly compensated for their—
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
I understand that. I'm just wondering whether, on the use of generated content, it's not going to apply to Pornhub.
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
It's not about content. BillC-10 is not about content moderation, which is also something I've said a number of times in the past.
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
I just need you to say yes or no. Bill C-10 is not going to be the means by which you regulate Pornhub. You'll have something else—another regulator or some other process?
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
It will not be done through Bill C-10, yes, that is correct.
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
Rose Kalemba contacted our committee and asked us to fight for her. At age 14, she was kidnapped, brutally tortured and sexually assaulted, and her videos were posted on Pornhub, downloaded and promoted.
In your view—and I just have to be blunt here because we've talked about some really difficult stuff at our committee so I hope you don't find me being too blunt—would you believe that the posting of those videos represents criminal acts?
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
As you are well aware, they are criminal acts according to the Canadian Criminal Code, yes.
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
Good, because it has sections 162, 163 and 164, and yet those laws are not being applied.
I need to know why we need a regulator to oversee something that's already under the Criminal Code. The promotion of these videos, according to law, is a criminal act, so why don't we just apply the law?
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
As I said earlier, the challenge that we in Canada, and countries all around the world, are facing is that the tools that we have to deal with these issues in the physical world just aren't adapted to the virtual world. This is why Australia created a new regulatory body to deal with that, and it is why a number of countries either have created or are in the process of creating new regulations, new regulators, or both, to deal with this. It's because the tools we have just aren't adaptable.
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
Are you saying we simply don't need to use the Criminal Code? What surprises me is that internal documents from the RCMP's December 12 briefing note on Pornhub pointed out that your office is going to be taking the lead.
According to those documents, they are not going after Pornhub, so did cabinet tell the RCMP to stand down while you developed this regulator? Why is it that the RCMP are under the impression that you're the lead on this, and that the Canadian laws that exist are not going to be applied?
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
I respectfully disagree with the premise of your question. As I stated earlier, the legislation will address five categories of online harms, which are already criminal according to Canadian law, and which are already criminal activities under the Canadian Criminal Code.
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
I get that. I guess my concern is that you haven't actually come up with legislation. You don't know when this regulator's going to appear, and the RCMP internal notes say your office is taking the lead.
We have survivors who suffered serious crimes and abuse. We have the Criminal Code. I'm wanting to know why your government is saying that it will be the regulator that handles that, as opposed to telling the RCMP and the justice minister to do their job.
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
I think you're misunderstanding what we're trying to do.
There are many reasons we need to create a regulator. One—
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
I don't have a problem with the regulator. What I have a problem with is the fact that we actually have criminal laws in place, and it seems that the RCMP has decided that Pornhub doesn't have to actually follow the law—there's voluntary compliance; your Attorney General says he's not even sure if they're a Montreal company; you're telling us there's going to be some kind of regulator, but you don't have one....
I just have to be honest. Having the minister of culture and communications handle a file about horrific sexual assault videos to me is like asking the minister of transportation to look after human trafficking.
Why is it that the laws of the land are just not being applied? You can go and get a regulator, but why are the laws not being applied?
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
Your analogy would be correct if I were the only one doing this. I'm not.
As I stated in my remarks initially, I am working with the Minister of Public Safety, with the Minister of Justice and with a number of other colleagues. This is a whole-of-government approach. It's not—
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
I know, and they say you're the lead on this. They defer to you.
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
We don't have a regulator. We don't have any action. Again, what do I tell the survivors who are being told, sorry, not much is going to happen but maybe a regulator, and maybe there will be a new CRTC for porn? How long are they going to have to wait before they actually see something?
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
This was in my mandate letter when I was nominated as the Minister of Canadian Heritage. We started right away, despite the most important pandemic we've seen in the last 100 years, doing public consultations, doing the work. Some people may like—
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
Have you spoken with survivors?
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
Of course we've met with survivors.
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
Have you met with survivors of Pornhub?
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
I have not personally, but the department and people on my team have, so yes, we have, but it's not something that can be solved overnight. It's a complex issue. As we're seeing all around the world, countries are struggling with this.
View Chris Warkentin Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you, Mr. Angus.
We're going to turn to Mr. Viersen for the next round of questions.
Mr. Viersen.
View Arnold Viersen Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
To the minister, have you, your staff or your office ever had a meeting with Chuck Rifici or any of his associates or employees?
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
I would be happy to provide the committee with....
I can't see the image of the member, but maybe I should proceed anyway, Mr. Chair.
View Chris Warkentin Profile
CPC (AB)
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
I'd be happy to provide the committee with the list of organizations and people we've met—we being the government—on this issue over the last year and some months.
View Arnold Viersen Profile
CPC (AB)
All right.
I'd like to hand the rest of my time over to Mr. Gourde.
View Jacques Gourde Profile
CPC (QC)
Minister, would it have been possible to include a provision in Bill C‑10 to regulate platforms like Pornhub so as to finally protect our children, who are going through unspeakable things right now?
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you for the question.
I find your question very cynical, as your party consistently opposes the passage of Bill C‑10, which is not about content moderation, but rather about web giants contributing to our cultural sector's artists and musicians.
View Jacques Gourde Profile
CPC (QC)
Forgive me, Minister, but you are changing the subject.
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Jacques Gourde Profile
CPC (QC)
It is our duty to protect our children.
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
What you are talking about...
View Chris Warkentin Profile
CPC (AB)
Minister, Monsieur Gourde, it's difficult when you're talking over each other.
Monsieur Gourde, I'll turn the floor back to you.
View Jacques Gourde Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
I'm sorry. Are you turning it back to Mr. Gourde or to me, Mr. Chair?
View Chris Warkentin Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you, Minister.
The time is Monsieur Gourde's.
Monsieur Gourde, we'll turn it back to you.
View Jacques Gourde Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
We have had some very disturbing testimony about underage children being exploited by platforms, and we need to take action. You told us you would put in place a new provision, new legislation, which probably won't come into effect for a year, a year and a half. We need to move much, much faster than that. We live in a society where our children are not protected, currently, from web giants.
How are you going to speed up the process? Why couldn't C‑10 close the loophole for now?
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
Once again, your party opposes the passage of Bill C‑10, which has nothing to do with content moderation, while the hate speech and online harm bill specifically addresses the issue of content moderation.
Yet you say you oppose content moderation. You and many of your colleagues say that the government wants to take away your freedom of expression. The exploitation of persons bill will ensure...
View Jacques Gourde Profile
CPC (QC)
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
No, it's a bill that...
View Jacques Gourde Profile
CPC (QC)
Well, then, let's talk about something else, Minister. We're not talking about culture, we're talking about protecting our children.
When will your next bill be introduced?
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
As quickly as possible. I can already tell you that your party will oppose that bill as well. Your party...
View Jacques Gourde Profile
CPC (QC)
That is speculation, Minister.
We want to protect our children. Table your bill as soon as possible, before an election is called. If there is an election this fall, absolutely nothing will happen for the next two years.
There are children in Canada who are thinking about suicide. They are not being protected right now, Minister. Why is this coming back into your court? It should have been the responsibility of the Department of Justice. You may not be in the best position to help our children right now.
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
I want to start by saying that the Internet and the sexual exploitation of children on the Internet existed before 2015. Your party was in power for 10 years. On the one hand, you did nothing about this issue, despite the existence of this phenomenon.
On the other hand, the sooner your party stops its systematic obstruction of Bill C‑10, the sooner...
View Jacques Gourde Profile
CPC (QC)
Minister, you are electioneering.
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
...I can quickly table my bill.
View Jacques Gourde Profile
CPC (QC)
Your arguments are being made from an electoral perspective, Minister. You don't want to help children. Right now they need help and we want to help them. You are not helping us.
You are already in an election campaign. You are making election-minded comments and it's really sad. I'm really disappointed in your attitude, because we are all elected to improve the lives of Canadians. Please stop your electioneering and tell us how you are going to help our children.
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
We want to do several things. As stated in my mandate letter, the bill will make it possible to remove all illegal content within 24 hours, thereby forcing companies to do so. Companies currently aren't doing this. The bill will also help implement an effective and user‑friendly content moderation system. Platforms will be subject to greater transparency obligations with respect to reporting online harms, such as child sexual exploitation, to law enforcement.
View Jacques Gourde Profile
CPC (QC)
Rest assured, Minister Guilbeault, that we'll be there to help you. Don't speculate. This bill hasn't been tabled.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
View Chris Warkentin Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you, Monsieur Gourde.
We're going to turn to Mr. Dong for the next round of questions.
Mr. Dong.
View Han Dong Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you very much, Chair.
I want to thank you, Minister Guilbeault, for coming to the committee today and talking about a very important topic.
First of all, I want to go back to your opening statement. You cited an increase of xenophobia and Islamophobia in behaviours or speeches online over the recent months. As a member of the Asian-Canadian community, I observe and witness first-hand some of these intolerable behaviours online.
I have to say that the pandemic is changing people's socialized behaviour. More and more, people are spending time on social media. Then we have some of these bad actors using various platforms, seeing them as tools of disguise, seeing them as a protection, and also utilizing bots and trolls and saying all kinds of things they otherwise wouldn't say in public.
You mentioned that children in the country are being victimized, and the platforms are not doing anything. That's precisely what we are talking about today.
We know that social media companies, including the one we are doing a study on, have been acting unilaterally and opaquely. Sometimes they introduce half measures after public pressure, but they haven't been serious about consulting with industry experts and listening to the recommendations of the audience and the groups of victims.
In your opinion, what can the giants do to respect Canadians' will and Canadian law in terms of protecting the general public? It's in their best interest as well, because that's their audience and their client base. A very few bad actors are contaminating the online environment.
Can you talk a little about that?
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
There are many elements in what you said.
First, I think one of the purposes of the legislation is to ensure more transparency on the part of the platforms in terms of their guidelines and practices regarding content moderation, because right now it's very uneven. Some companies have better content moderation practices than others, and some have very little. You're right—they are not transparent.
Some may have rejoiced in the decision of this platform or that platform to ban this user or another user, but under which criteria? Why them and not someone else? This is clearly something we want to tackle. Frankly, there is an issue where we see the very business model of some of the platforms being about creating controversy and nourishing hate speech and intolerance, because it creates more traffic on their platform. Therefore, they can sell more publicity and make more money.
As part of the legislation that will be tabled, this is also something that we as a legislator will need to address.
View Han Dong Profile
Lib. (ON)
Minister, thank you very much for that.
We heard opposition colleagues talk about.... We're dealing with content online; therefore, they suggested that it's your sole responsibility, but at the committee here we heard from the witnesses that the makeup and structure of these companies is designed to get around government regulations. We have a company that is operating out of Quebec but registered in another country, so I understand what you mean when you say it's going to be a joint effort between different ministries and different ministers.
I'll go back to what my colleague, MP Angus, asked about earlier, which I thought was interesting. In your opinion, is Canadian law, as is it currently, inadequate to police what's going on online, to the point that they are committing crimes according to our Canadian values and the Canadian law?
Are our laws adequate at all? If not, what will be the direction? What kinds of changes can we introduce to protect victims?
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
The first part of your question is a very interesting one, because what we are, in fact, seeing is that these companies—many of these companies, perhaps not all of them—are using different loopholes around the world to try to get away from having to obey national laws, whether it's in Canada, Australia, Germany, Finland, France or the United Kingdom. What we want to do with the legislation will ensure that whether or not a company is Canadian, or based in Canada, or registered in Canada, or its websites are housed in Canada, if it broadcasts images and videos in Canada then the law will apply to it.
View Chris Warkentin Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you, Minister. I gave some extra time to allow you to answer some of that question.
View Han Dong Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Chair.
View Chris Warkentin Profile
CPC (AB)
Hopefully we can get back to that if there are additional opportunities.
Madam Gaudreau, we'll turn to you for the next two and a half minutes.
View Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
My remarks will be a little different. I want to talk to you. What just happened is a concrete example. I think, or rather I know, that I'm the only one who can make this type of comment.
Our conscience is telling us that we must protect our children, our youth. We need to legislate and move quickly to do so as well. We're in the committee making the case that this is important and necessary. We're trying to speed things up, but we've lost a tremendous amount of time. You'll argue that I'm a new member of Parliament. However, the fact remains that people are watching us.
Despite our willingness to help our constituents, the political scene ensures that the pursuit of power takes precedence. We're seeing this right now. We're seeing pre‑campaigning, filibustering and so on. It's all about drawing things out. Minister Guilbeault, I believe that, in order to help our people, we should have had a meeting and a specific bill already in hand. However, we didn't even pass Bill C‑10, which I find extremely disappointing.
People back home are telling me things. If you ask the people back home, they'll tell you to stop carrying on the political games and the pursuit of power. We need to help our people. I'm ashamed of that part. I won't give up. Why won't I? Because my party is the only one that can claim that it promotes and protects the interests of Quebeckers. We aren't looking for power. On the contrary, we don't want it anymore.
That said, Minister Guilbeault, you spoke about five categories of illegal activities included in your bill. I don't know what they are and I would like you to identify them.
View Chris Warkentin Profile
CPC (AB)
Minister, I just want to let you know that you have just 15 seconds left to respond, as the member took most of that short round. Minister, I'll give you a chance to answer with a short answer.
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
If I may specify, it is 11:50 and I must remind you and all members that I have a hard stop a few minutes before 12, as I must be present in the House of Commons at 12 o'clock sharp for a debate. Thank you for your understanding.
I'll respond in 15 seconds.
These are the five categories of harms that we want to address in this bill: child sexual exploitation, incitement to violence, incitement to terrorism, non‑consensual sharing of intimate content and hate speech.
View Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Minister Guilbeault.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
View Chris Warkentin Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Angus, we'll turn to you.
View Charlie Angus Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you so much, Minister.
In the examples we've had some really hard meetings with survivors sharing their stores. I look at Canada's Criminal Code. Section 162, filming people without their consent and then promoting it, is a five-year prison sentence. Section 163, selling and promoting non-consensual sexual assault videos, is a 14-year prison sentence.
I would ask you, how do you tell the survivors that it's okay for the Justice Department of Canada and the RCMP not to apply the laws to a company when they know it exists in Montreal, because some day there will be a regulator that will deal with this?
We have laws that are very clear. We're talking about very obvious issues of a breach of law. Why is it that your government has not acted?
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