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View Scott Simms Profile
Lib. (NL)
Welcome back, everyone. This is clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-10.
I just want to point out to everybody in this room that I know the bells are ringing and that I'll be seeking unanimous consent in just a few moments.
Okay, I know I said some time ago that I would try to give you as ample notice as I could about a meeting, and when I seek out meetings, I will do just that. I will be cognizant of the time. I'll be cognizant of your situation.
The whips amongst our parties—again, I am not specifically pointing out any particular whip of any recognized party, and there are four groups in question—decided that they would put this meeting together. I received notice shortly before you did.
Now, because we passed a motion on March 26 that states that we will seek out meetings—and it didn't say anything about notice—we must have this meeting as of right now.
That being said, I'm going to say this publicly. I'm going to say this in front of you, my colleagues. I'm going to say this while we're in session. As chair, I have the floor, so I'm going to say it.
This is a message for the benefit of my colleagues, the staff, the analysts, the clerks, the interpreters, the technical staff, and everyone involved. I ask you to please consider the fact that these people have families, that these people live in rural areas like me. We are not emergency workers. We're not paramedics. We're not firefighters. We're not on call like that. These are planned meetings—normally.
So, to the four represented whips at this meeting—and I know you're on this call—please consider this when we do this again. I'm asking this not just as a chair but as a human being. Thank you.
That being said, do I have unanimous consent to continue?
View Scott Simms Profile
Lib. (NL)
Welcome, everyone, to clause-by-clause on Bill C-10. This is the resumption of the meeting. Welcome back.
We are going to pick up where we left off the last time, if you want to get out your song sheets once more.
Some hands are up.
Mr. Shields, do you want to move a motion? Go ahead; you have the floor.
Thomas Owen Ripley
View Thomas Owen Ripley Profile
Thomas Owen Ripley
2021-06-09 18:00
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for the question, Mr. Shields.
The point I was trying to make during our last meeting was that Bill C-10, as tabled, does not have thresholds in the legislation, in terms of determining whether an online undertaking should be regulated by the CRTC and should be required to contribute. The test, as articulated in the bill as it was tabled, was a determination of the CRTC's part with regard to whether that online undertaking is well positioned to make a material contribution to the policy objectives.
One reason it was done in that way was to recognize that there is a very wide diversity of online business models out there. It is difficult to be categorical with where that material contribution threshold kicks in. The reason I referenced CBC/Radio-Canada was to give an example of how, as the committee knows, CBC's conventional services are licensed and overseen by the CRTC right now, just like TVA or CTV. The expectation is certainly that the CRTC would have jurisdiction over its online undertakings of TOU.TV and CBC Gem, just as the CRTC will have jurisdiction over Bell Canada's equivalent Crave TV service, Club illico, and those types of services.
The point I was trying to make was that based on the data we have, the threshold that's being put forward in this amendment may be so high as to exclude CBC/Radio-Canada's online undertakings, for example. The position of the government would be that CBC/Radio-Canada is very well positioned to make a contribution to achieving the policy objectives of the act. That was the point I was trying to make, Mr. Shields.
View Michelle Rempel Garner Profile
Thank you, Chair, and also for welcoming me to the heritage committee.
I've been following the procedure of this bill through various stages for some time now and I am concerned about the broadness of scope and the serious concerns that many well-placed advisers have brought up. I could speak to that at length. I will start by speaking to the amendment that my colleague brought forward.
On this bill, I just don't understand why the government and members on this committee aren't supportive of putting some restrictions and limitations on who this impacts. Again, some of the amendments that have been defeated at this committee would, I think, take away some of the fears of Canadians who are rightly asking questions about what this means for them.
Some of us have served longer than others here in the House and in Parliament, so I'll just speak to my experience. When I started my public service, social media was really still in its infancy in terms of its transformation of how we consume information, but today, the reality is that traditional broadcasting and traditional ways of creating Canadian content have been disrupted, much like Uber disrupted the taxi industry.
As parliamentarians, I think we have a responsibility to ask ourselves if putting in place certain government regulations benefits the country and creators as that disruption comes through, or if it's actually hindering the emergence of new voices, new content and Canadians actually engaging in cultural activities.
I do think this amendment that my colleague has put forward actually would benefit many Canadians and I want to explain why.
My colleague Ms. McPherson raised the issue of consulting with Quebec cultural influencers. I can name one off the top off my head: Cynthia Dulude. She has over 600,000 YouTube subscribers. I'm sure she has been able to monetize her account. This is a voice that wouldn't necessarily be eligible for the current structure of proceeding that we have. Rather than supporting her, this bill would allow the CRTC in many ways to essentially deem her to be a broadcaster. That's why I think amendments like this are beneficial to enshrining the rights of women especially, who have been typically excluded from the way we've done things in Canada for a long period of time.
When you look at the progression of legislation and regulations over the years, I fully support the strides that were taken to ensure that Canadian culture, content and heritage were promoted, but this bill doesn't work with the disruption that has been created in the industry. It just seeks to enshrine an old way of doing things, and in doing so, it marginalizes Canadian voices when we're looking at where the football is going to be10 or 20 years from now.
In a lot of ways, the way that social media has disrupted the development of Canadian content has really democratized the creation of content. It's a really exciting thing. There are voices that never had a platform before that now do have a platform and don't have to go through gatekeepers. I think that's a very positive thing for Canada, not a negative thing for Canada.
I understand why the gatekeepers want to gatekeep. I understand why the gatekeepers, the incumbent telco companies, those who have a stake in making money off grants and contributions without really promoting the advancement of heritage activities, want to protect the status quo, because they profit off it. Why can't we do both?
The amendments that my colleagues have been suggesting would allow us to support influencers, support those who have found platforms on social media, and protect them but also allow the current way of doing things to exist.
I guess, maybe, this is a different a way of looking at things. I'm glad we're having this debate, but I don't think that government should exist to regulate away disruptive influences in the marketplace that actually benefit Canadians.
We often see this. When I was vice-chair of the industry committee, I made some pretty bold statements about how we need to potentially look at disrupting the way that Internet is provide in Canada in order to address rural broadband issues, even access within urban centres.
You see those incumbents that benefit from the monopolistic structure that government protects. They are going to push back at that because their profit models are dependant on it. Again, I almost feel like I'm in the Twilight Zone here because we have the left arguing for the propping up of a monopolistic structure that doesn't benefit the people in any way, shape or form. I think it just benefits large companies that, arguably, I'm not sure have done the best job of promoting Canadian content and culture.
We have the opportunity here in Parliament to rethink how government interacts with content creators. Instead, we get this bill that seeks to enshrine the status quo. I don't know why we couldn't be looking at taking the best of the status quo, like supporting.... Ms. McPherson brought up the issue of Quebec content creators. I don't understand why we can't be looking at regulations and laws that support those content creators but at the same time acknowledging that disruption has occurred and ensuring that we're protecting those new voices and those new ways of doing things. I really think that's what is at the heart of the amendment that has been put forward today.
There was an assertion made that there was no research done on this particular amendment. I know that to be false. There have been white papers drafted around the world. I'm thinking of one. I can't remember the reference off the top of my head because, much like my colleague, Alain, I'm jumping into this meeting at the last minute, but it's important for me to be here on behalf of my constituents. I know that there was a white paper done out of Australia that did look at certain threshold limits based on the disruption that had occurred in their national market and a desire to protect those voices.
The account that I mentioned out of Quebec.... They're not a broadcaster; they're creating videos and giving a voice that is unique to their lens and their perspective on certain issues. For the government to try to come in and use a.... Frankly, we could have a whole other discussion about the CRTC's being an outdated institution that is desperately in need of reform. However, this amendment would actually limit the scope of what that outdated institution could do to the benefit of intersectional voices that all of a sudden have a platform in Canada.
I really think that if we don't put amendments like this in place, we're going to look back 10 years from now.... I think that Canadians will look back at this debate by parliamentarians and these types of amendments, and the parliamentarian who don't support these amendments and say, “Why were they supporting the old way of doing things? Why weren't they supporting my voice? Why did they regulate speech?”
Why should the CRTC have a say over individual YouTube accounts? Why wouldn't you put clarity to this? If the government is true when it says there is no intention to regulate individual social media accounts, why wouldn't we put those safeguards in there?
This isn't the Criminal Code. This is policy that influences how business will be undertaken, and it's the right to freedom of speech.
I'm going to reference another example that I've been deeply uncomfortable with: the subsidies for print media in Canada. I believe it's very important for our country to have a strong journalistic culture that holds all of us to account, regardless of political stripe. However, when the government puts in place a fund to support media and then it picks the recipients of funds, there's a direct linkage there. A direct bias is created and you no longer have independence in journalism. That's wrong. We can sit here and vociferously disagree on policy and politics, but we should be agreeing that we need independence of media. There needs to be a separation—a clear delineation—between media, the speech of Canadians and government.
There has been a lot of discussion about how the government should regulate hate speech. That's another thorny area because there is a lot of hate, even today. As a parliamentarian, I have received a lot of hate in the last 24 hours for statements I've made that I strongly believe in. That doesn't mean I should be taking away the right of people to make those statements, unless they fall under existing Criminal Code provisions related to libel or hate speech. We already have the Criminal Code for this.
If you port that concept over to Bill C-10,, why would the regulator be seeking to limit the activities of individual voices and Canadians? That's why I think Bill C-10 is a flawed piece of legislation. I don't support it in general, but at least the amendments that my colleagues are putting forward seek to separate this concept out.
Honestly, the point I want to make at this committee on behalf of my constituents is that you have this nexus right now where historically over time our country and the government have sought ways to promote Canadian content. However, we've had such a disruption in how that content is produced and consumed that porting the old style of supporting content creation onto a disrupted model is opening the door for government abuses on freedom of speech.
That's why it is so important for us to pass these amendments. There needs to be more structure. There needs to be more clarity. Even for user accounts that.... Consider the Quebec account that I mentioned earlier. I am sure she has a good business from that. I'm sure she is making money off of it. Good for her. That's awesome; that's fantastic. Why would the government seek to limit her voice?
These amendments give clarity and certainty for an emerging area of business that most Canadians are just waking up to. For us, it's about understanding that putting “influencer” on a CV is a thing. Influencing is a thing. People make money off of it. It's a new way of advertising. Yet, I feel like we are sitting here as legislators looking at this with a lens that is 30 years old. That's a huge problem.
I understand that there might be some really rote, basic politics. There might be a polarization here to score quick political wins one way or the other. However, I encourage colleagues on this call, from the bottom of my heart, to look past that and ask, what's in the best interest of this country? We should be seeking to support Canadian content creation, definitely ensuring that we are supporting French-language content creation as well. It should be all content creation, including marginalized voices that typically have not had platforms because of the gatekeepers. We should be seeking to do that while ensuring that we are acknowledging the fact that the structure of how we create content has fundamentally changed.
The amendment at hand that my colleague proposed puts clear limitations on and structure around intent. If the government's intent is X, Y or Z, this amendment makes sense, as did the one that was defeated in this committee. I was so disappointed. I honestly thought that the government was going to put this debate to bed by proposing the amendment that was defeated earlier that was in the media. I was shocked. My colleagues on here who have known me for a while, from all political stripes, know that it takes a lot to shock me. I was actually shocked.
Again, there are winners and losers with Bill C-10, and why would we be doing that? Why would we be picking winners and losers? Why would we be picking voices?
What I worry about is that groups who seek to promote the status quo have a very well-funded lobby. I know they have been in front of many of you. They seek meetings. They seek to spin their position.
The people who are emerging in this market disruption—the voices such as the account I mentioned—don't have a lobby. They don't have a well-funded group that's coming in and talking about how they're going to influence votes in our ridings. That is why I'm here at the heritage committee today. I'm trying to cut beyond the political bluster to try and honestly, from a place of reason, say, “Look to 10 years from now. Look 10 years from now and understand that if we put this legislation in place without some definitions...”.
. They're not coming in and talking about the polling based on the popularity of a spun question within our ridings. They're just doing their thing. They're new content creators. They don't have that lobby, but that doesn't mean we don't have an obligation to protect them.
The amendments that are being put forward here are designed to protect those people. They are people who haven't had a voice in our previous iterations of cultural content creation, and they don't have a voice with these big lobby groups right now either. Why wouldn't we be protecting them? Why wouldn't we add this in? It makes so much sense.
I really think we should go back to the drawing board. I get that parties are set in here. However, if we don't get this right, now, I really think we have opened up Canadian influencers to a chill on freedom of speech. I think that is absolutely possible. We have not done our jobs as legislators here to tell the regulator what they can and can't do. We haven't done the systemic reform of the regulator that's necessary. That's a problem as well. We also haven't.... We are trying to impose the regulatory structure of a system that was put in place before cellphones existed on to a disrupted system of how we create content. That is why these amendments are being put forward.
I would just say this to colleagues: If you don't like the amendments, if you don't like the set thresholds of subscribers or the advertising thresholds, then propose a subamendment. Bring forward other research. But this bill, as it is right now, is bunk. It needs to be fixed. It can't pass without this happening.
What I'm hearing, from watching the media coverage of this, is that there is a desire among all parties to ensure that Canadian content is created, is funded, is supported, particularly French-language content creation, which needs to be shared across the country.
I think there's a shared desire here.... I also hope that there's a shared understanding that we shouldn't be rushing to put in place systems that could inadvertently put a chill on our freedom of speech.
I'll put it this way, and I've said this to people: For those of you who were in Parliament under Prime Minister Stephen Harper and vociferously railed against him, if you would be uncomfortable with Stephen Harper having the power to regulate individual social media content, then you should also be deeply uncomfortable with Justin Trudeau being able to do that. No person, no government, should have the right to regulate freedom of speech in the way that this does.
At the same time, we should also be understanding that regular content creators have a right to proceed through this disruption. Canada went through a very sort of unsettled period of time—three to four years—when Uber disrupted the market.
There was a lot of back and forth, admittedly at the municipal level, about what bylaws should be put in place to regulate Uber and how taxi drivers were affected through that disruption, but at no time during that debate were higher-level issues like freedom of speech threatened. That's really what we have here with this bill.
I implore my colleagues here to really think about passing smart amendments. Again, if there's a problem with the amendment, propose a subamendment rather than just dismissing it outright.
I understand that people like Michael Geist and the former CRTC commissioner might be irritants to the government right now, but I know these people. They're not partisans by any stretch. These are informed people who have been working in the space for a long period of time and genuinely care about the flaws in this legislation, because they're coming from a place of academic understanding that this is flawed, deeply flawed, to the point where it is detrimental to the country. They're not doing this from a place of partisanship or politicking; they are genuinely concerned. We have a job as legislators to listen to those concerns in this period of time.
I know that my colleague Mr. Arnold wants to get on. This rant has been brewing for some time for me. It is so crucial that we get this right.
I would put this on the record. Colleagues, I'm sure many of you watched the American Senate committee hearings, over a couple of years ago now, when Mark Zuckerberg appeared before a Senate committee and the questions that he was asked were so pedantic. You could see him trying to explain to legislators what an email was. I'm being slightly facetious, but not that much.
I just feel as though we are here right now and the debate that we're having is so mired in a lack of understanding of this space, as opposed to really thinking about what the role of government is in the broader discussion of the disruption that has happened in media, in how we consume information and how we create information. I implore you that rather than just importing a regulatory structure that is 40 years old onto a beautiful new way of doing things, in a way that could put a serious chill on it, that silences voices of Canadians who have finally found a platform—
View Michelle Rempel Garner Profile
Thank you, Chair.
Mr. Champoux, I had said I was wrapping up, but now I feel like I need to explain a few more things, unfortunately. If you had given me another 10 seconds, I would have closed. I was on the grand finale, but perhaps now I will take a few more minutes to discuss the motion at hand.
Again, to colleagues who are looking at the amendment, it reads:
9.2 (1) This Act does not apply in respect of online undertakings that have fewer than 500,000 subscribers in Canada or receive less than $80 million per year in advertising, subscription, usage or membership revenues in Canada from the transmission or retransmission of programs over the Internet.(2) Every two years after the day on which subsection (1) comes into force, the Commission must, with the approval of the Governor in Council, review the subscriber and revenue thresholds and may make regulations to increase them as required.
This is smart because it actually puts in place form and substance in a bill where these did not exist before. This amendment talks about what the materiality principle is in relation to the regulator, and that has not been described anywhere else in this law. Again, there are bodies of knowledge and work that have been undertaken, I think, to support that as a starting point.
What I like about the structure of this amendment is that it says, here's a starting point, but on a biannual basis there's a requirement for the commission to review whether or not that's adequate in terms of how Canadian content creators are actually growing. It has this built-in review process, and that's why it's elegant.
I know that some colleagues have asked—I believe it was Ms. McPherson—how he came up with this threshold. I believe that my colleague came up with it based on white papers that have been produced around the world. He has also built in this mechanism here to say that we will have a review process to ensure that it is adequate over a period of time.
I'm not going to propose a subamendment, but if I were to change it, I think that review process should also take into consideration the impact that the current incumbents and current system have. Why should we just give them a free pass here too? Why shouldn't we be talking about their actual views? The elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about is how many views CBC News actually gets on any evening, or how many views CTV News gets on an actual evening, yet we are moving heck and high water, Chair, to protect them.
Perhaps that's something the committee could discuss as well. How are we putting checks and balances on the incumbents that would benefit from our maintaining the status quo? I do think that the review process that's built in here is elegant—it's nice—and it recognizes that this is an emerging field of regulation.
The need for a review process that's built into the amendment acknowledges that Bill C-10 is coming in almost ham-fisted, this very “bull in a china shop” approach to ramming through regulatory process that doesn't really reflect the reality of new content creation.
Again, I know that my colleagues are going to propose other amendments to try to do what we've been talking about, which is recognize that we shouldn't be putting a chill on freedom of speech and shouldn't be unduly burdening a new source of economic revenue for Canadians, but this is an excellent amendment.
I hope that my colleagues approach our amendments, not from that blind partisan perspective but more from the perspective of getting this right on behalf of Canadians—Canadian women, indigenous voices, Black voices, persons of colour and members of the LGBTQ+ community, who traditionally haven't had voices and now have voices and platforms. Put amendments in place to protect them, and be clear on what the role of the regulator is.
To my colleague, Mr. Rayes: good work, excellent, well done. You have served your constituents well.
I implore my colleagues on this committee to really think about this so that when we are looking back in 10 years time to these committee hearings, which will undoubtedly be referenced in numerous challenges, we're on the right side of history and the right side of the disruption that happened.
Thank you, Chair.
View Alain Rayes Profile
Thank you, Mr. chair.
It won't take that long. I don't think there are any more questions on the amendment I proposed, but I want to take one last little moment to remind all members of the committee that the ultimate goal is to set guidelines. We believe that the powers of the CRTC must be circumscribed. We all know how frustrating the deletion of clause 4.1 originally proposed in Bill C-10 as well as the changes made to that bill throughout the process have been.
I invite the committee to consider this request, which I repeat is quite reasonable, in my opinion. The thresholds we're proposing are below those recommended by Australia. They would provide a minimum level of protection for users and small players on social networks, so that they're not controlled and aren't subjected to additional regulations and paperwork. These people are asking for nothing more than the freedom to express their art, and not just at home but around the world.
I think that, as Quebeckers and as Canadians, we're proud to see artists succeed outside the country. In Quebec, we have Cirque du Soleil, which everyone knows and which has performed all over the world. If it had been restricted to Canada because other countries had prevented it from performing on their territory, I'm not sure it would have had the opportunity to enjoy the success it has.
The idea is not to close in on ourselves. We must instead show that we are proud and strong, and that there is talent here. We should be proud to see our home‑grown talent exported around the world and let everyone's creativity shine on social networks.
The game has changed. Digital players like Netflix and Disney+ have joined the so‑called closed broadcasting system. There is also the open system, where broadcasters use certain algorithms and let users choose the content they want to download.
As legislators, we have a responsibility to protect users and the content they broadcast. The proposed amendment to add section 9.2 to the Broadcasting Act does not amend Bill C‑10 perfectly, I agree. Personally, I would have liked there to be no standard. At least this amendment protects a certain number of users.
Also, as you know, under proposed subsections 9.2(2) and 9.2(3), the CRTC will have the opportunity to review these thresholds every two years, if I'm not mistaken. I'm going from memory, since the short notice we had for this meeting didn't give me a chance to get my notes from home.
I implore the members of the committee to consider this in their thinking before voting. I also ask them to rise above the direction they've received from their strategists. We now know that they have a kind of hold over the committee. We only have to look at what they did: the gag order was imposed on us and then, as a result of corridor discussions between the whips, this meeting was set up without all of us knowing about it.
I'm asking you to allow us to do our job and make sure we protect all Canadians and Quebeckers who use social networks to post content. We're not just talking about videos of dogs and cats, as some would have you believe, in an attempt to simplify the situation. We're also talking about artists who produce quality content, content aimed at informing people, such as documentaries. They create this content without a budget, using simple tools and democratized technology. Now, people can create high‑quality things just from their phones, thanks to a few low‑cost apps. These digital tools make it possible to democratize information and create content.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
Orwell said, Mr. Chair, that if freedom of speech means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear. Obviously, government members on this committee do not want to hear what I have to say, but I still have the right to say it. Regulators do not want to hear what Canadians have to say. They still have the right to say it.
If we have to stand alone as Conservatives in this fight for freedom of expression, so we will do. We will stand for the right of people to say what they like and express themselves freely without interference and coercion by the state. That is why we're here with such contention today. It's why we have fought so hard on the floor of the House of Commons and why we have committed, very proudly, to be the only party that will repeal Bill C-10 and restore free speech online for all Canadians.
Numerous senior ministers, including the Prime Minister, have said they see COVID as an opportunity for them to expand the power and scope of the state—to make people like them more powerful. That is why they have attempted to take over large parts of the economy, massively increase government spending, limit freedom of choice for parents in how they raise their kids, and now censor what people say online.
If members of the government think we're going to sit by and allow that to happen, then they've ignored 800 years of parliamentary history, where commoners have routinely stood up to defend their freedom through the system of Parliament that we have inherited through so many generations.
I am not surprised to hear that the Liberals want the federal government to have more power and that federal officials should control people's speech. However, I am surprised to learn that the Bloc Québécois, which claims to want to separate itself from Canada, and therefore from the authority of the Canadian state, is supporting a bill giving federal officials the power to control the speech and words of Quebeckers. The Bloc Québécois should be called the centralizing Bloc, since it now wants to give the federal government in Ottawa the power to control what Quebeckers say. How is this consistent with the independence of the Quebec nation?
We, the Conservatives, are the only party standing up for the freedom of expression of Quebeckers. Apparently, we are the only party that understands that people's speech, people's words are not under federal or provincial jurisdiction, but under individual jurisdiction. Everyone has the freedom to express themselves without interference from the state. We believe that all Quebeckers should be able to decide what to say, when to say it and how to say it.
I am shocked that a sovereignist party would give the Canadian state the power to control the way Quebeckers express themselves. It is ironic. Most Quebeckers would be really surprised to hear that this party, supposedly the Bloc Québécois, is in favour of giving the federal government much more power on this issue.
We, the Conservatives, are proud to defend the autonomy of Quebeckers. Everyone is free to say what they want and to choose how they express themselves on the Internet and elsewhere. Although the Conservatives seem to be the only ones willing to protect these freedoms, I am proud that we do. At the same time, I must admit that it is disappointing and surprising that no other party is willing to do the same.
From what I can see, the Bloc Québécois and the Liberals are listening to the lobbyists, the officials and the politicians in Ottawa, who simply want to protect their interests by excluding people and controlling content. The Liberals and the Bloc are attacking Quebec artists. Those artists will have the opportunity to choose the only party that supports freedom of expression, the Conservative Party.
Such is the nature of the debate we are having. However, there is still time. The Bloc Québécois may still have the opportunity to see that Quebeckers do not want the federal government to decide for them, and to understand that everyone, including Quebeckers, must have the freedom to express themselves.
That's really the choice. All of the other parties want to give more power to bureaucrats, lobbyists and politicians, and one party wants to give power back to the people. That's the Conservative Party. We're standing up all by ourselves to defend the principle that people should be able to express themselves even if the government and the political establishment close to the government disagree. Quite frankly, I'm proud that we're taking this principled stand, that we are speaking our mind and defending the millions of Canadians who are going to be voiceless if this bill passes.
What we've seen from the other parties is a desire to massively increase the power of the state at the expense of the people. When the state becomes more powerful, the people become weaker and smaller. That, of course, is the goal, the purpose of this bill and so many other power grabs that we have witnessed over the last year.
Remember, when this pandemic began, the first thing the Prime Minister did was try to pass a law empowering him to raise any tax to any level for any reason, without even holding a vote, for two years. He wanted to have that power locked in until the year 2022, the ability to just raise any tax with an executive order. That has never been done in our parliamentary system. The basic principle of no taxation without representation means that the government can't tax what Parliament doesn't approve. He tried to take that power away and impose higher taxes on the Canadian people.
Instead, we fought back, and to the credit of the Canadian people who joined us in the backlash, he backed down. We hope that he will back down again before this censorship bill becomes law. As you all know, there has been a massive outcry against this bill. You've heard it. Your leader has heard it. Unfortunately, here's the problem: Instead of recognizing the opposition, this Prime Minister has been threatened by it. He said the last thing we need is more dissent and debate in this country, because then people won't agree with him. Therefore, he needs to pass a law to shut them down, silence their voices and prevent them from speaking up in the future. That is exactly what this bill does.
The bill needs to be repealed in its entirety, every single word of it. Not only that, it's interesting that my original suspicions about this bill were fulfilled. I said on the floor of the House of Commons last year, before the bill got much notice, that it would lead to Internet censorship. However, the government had put in a proposed section saying that user-generated content would be excluded, user-generated content being the material that everyday Canadians post online. They were able to use that as a fig leaf to cover up their true censorship intentions, but then the fig leaf dropped about a month and a half ago when the government, with the backing of other opposition parties, removed that one protection that was supposed to let everyday Canadians continue to post what they wanted online.
They just eliminated that altogether, even though the department's own charter analysis had shown that the bill relied on that protection in order to keep the bill constitutionally viable. They said, “Don't worry, this bill won't touch freedom of speech—it's got this one key exclusion.” Then they took that exclusion out, and here we are with a bill that will control online content and allow government to dictate what people see and say online.
We're going to continue to fight this bill right through all the stages in our efforts to defeat it. I think the Prime Minister is in a mad rush to get it through so that he can have it in place and locked in before the next election. Perhaps he thinks that some of the censorship elements in the bill will help him to win the election, will help suppress criticism of him while he's on the campaign trail so that nobody can expose the corruption of his government, the mismanagement of the pandemic and his horrendous failures at the early stages of the outbreak. All of these things can be suppressed by preventing what people say online.
Then we'll be stuck, of course, with the model of a very small group of liberals in the press gallery dictating the narrative and campaigning for the Prime Minister, without Canadians having the release valve to speak out and spread information and thoughts of their own online. That is, I think, the model that the Prime Minister feels most comfortable with: where you have 30 or 40 liberal press gallery types who go around spreading his message and attacking his enemies and no one is allowed to speak up to the contrary because there's a government regulation to prevent their voices being heard.
I think a lot of liberals have been bewildered by this new social media environment that they can't control. For so long, of course, they had such an iron grip on the discourse, when a small oligopoly of media enterprises could dominate political press coverage. In that environment, liberals thrive, because a small group of elites tells everyone else what to think, and those who dissent are left in the wilderness. They want to bring back that model—a model that is threatened by open free speech and the free expression and circulation of ideas.
You can't maintain a small oligopoly of media voices when everyday people are able to compete in a free market. Trudeau needs to abolish the free market of ideas and bring back a small group of media sycophants and give them the exclusive ability to dominate the discourse. Then, when he gets back to that position, no one will be able to contradict him or the overall party line.
Rest assured that we as Conservatives will fight back against this, and in the end, we will win. We will win this debate. We will overturn this bill. Whether we do it before the election or after, this bill will be defeated and freedom of speech will be restored.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
View Kevin Waugh Profile
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I welcome everyone to committee here once again.
I want to thank the member for Carleton and the member for Calgary Nose Hill, because both of them have huge followings on Facebook. This is the concern that we have at committee. When you get to 500,000-plus subscribers, the government or the CRTC will start looking into your activities.
We got rushed into this committee meeting today. I think the chair duly noted his disappointment with that here today, because we were scheduled for Friday morning. Now I see that we're also going to meet tomorrow morning, Thursday morning, from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. We're rushing through this bill, as we all know. It is flawed, and this has been talked about for quite some time.
This amendment by Mr. Rayes I've talked to before, and I like it—no “fewer than 500,000 subscribers in Canada or receive less than $80 million per year in advertising”. We have used those numbers because they equal what they have in Australia more or less. When Mr. Rayes brought forward this amendment, this was well thought out. We had some information from Australia that he certainly followed.
That's why we put forward this amendment. It's a very good one.
I'm going to read its second proposed subsection:
(2) Every two years after the day on which subsection (1) comes into force, the Commission must, with the approval of the Governor in Council, review the subscriber and revenue thresholds and may make regulations to increase them as required.
We even talked about this earlier, Mr. Chair, because the commission might want to decrease them as required, per the regulations on the CRTC's part.
I think the member from Carleton brought up a very good point. We had not heard a lot from the CRTC until the chair was here. We all know this bill will have major ramifications for the CRTC's workload. You will have listened to me for months about the concern I have about the CRTC. I understand, with the recent changes on licensing, that some want the seven-year licences because they will keep everyone in check. Others don't because, to be quite honest, when and if this bill does get passed, we will put strenuous time restraints on the CRTC, the chair, Ian Scott, along with members. We all know, sitting around this table, that we're concerned about the CRTC's involvement with this bill.
I've seen it as a conventional broadcaster. I've seen it for four decades, where they hand off the licence, then don't return for another six and a half years, when the conventional broadcasters in this country have violated their agreement with the CRTC almost the first week into the seven-year contract. If you're going to give conventional broadcasters the white flag and say we're going to do away with the seven-year contract on a licence, that opens up another can of worms. I think, in this country, we all have concerns about this.
The National Post has a big base in this country. It was interesting that on the front page of the National Post today—and the Windsor Star, the Saskatoon Star Phoenix, all the newspapers that the Post owns in this country—they have a message to the Prime Minister. There are not as many Canadians today subscribing to our newspapers as they did in the past. We all know that story, but it was an interesting read by the publisher of the National Post, the owners, signalling that their business is in trouble. They are worried about Google and Facebook like the rest of us are.
I really question the timing of the front page article today in the National Post. Knowing that we have less than five hours to go through Bill C-10, as a former broadcaster, I really do question why today? Why June 9? You have a full-page editorial in all the newspapers that the National Post owns in this country—many of them—to give a signal to the Prime Minister to deal with Facebook, with Google and all the other social media.
It was strange timing. I am reading between the lines on it. They have had their hands out, as we know. They are part of the $600 million already guaranteed to many in this country for the newspaper industry, which the Liberals have given many owners of newspapers. Yet today, Wednesday, June 9, two days before we're going to shut down debate and the gag order on Bill C-10, here we have a full-page editorial in every newspaper owned by the National Post in this country.
I agree with the amendment. It was interesting today...and I'm glad that the members for Calgary Nose Hill and Carleton were on, because they are going to be targeted. They will easily have 500,000 subscribers. They will easily be in line with the CRTC's—they will be flagged. They may not have the $80 million per year in advertising, but they will have millions of followers on Facebook. To me, they are going to be flagged.
Mr. Chair, I really appreciate both the members coming forward this late in committee, because they are concerned. They are concerned about free speech—their free speech—as we don't really know what is going to happen after this bill.
How involved will the CRTC be? I think they're going to be heavily involved in social media, more so than conventional TV, conventional radio, which we really even haven't talked about a lot in Bill C-10. I've had many radio owners in this country who are concerned because this bill got off the rails. We were trying to save radio and television stations in the country, and then, thanks to proposed section 4.1, we got derailed into the social media. In talking to many radio and TV owners, I know they're concerned that this bill does nothing for them and does everything for social media.
Now the CRTC is directing all of their attention towards Google, Facebook and so on—Netflix, Disney and the rest of them. They are very concerned that going forward, if this bill does pass before we rise, and also in the Senate, that their concerns.... Their concerns have been talked about long ago. We all had lobbyists knocking on our door when we came back in the fall and we started this Bill C-10. It seems like a long time ago that we opened the doors to radio stations across this country, conventional networks, left and right. To me, they've been forgotten now.
We barely remember who came to committee on their behalf with their concerns, as we've been absorbed by the free speech debate we are having as a result of Bill C-10.
Proposed subsection 9.2(3) of the amendment is interesting, because it says:
The Minister must prepare a report on the Commission's review under subsection (2) and submit the report to the standing committee of each House of Parliament that normally considers matters relating to broadcasting.
In conclusion, Mr. Chair, I want to to thank you for your words when we reconvened today, on a Wednesday instead of Friday. Your comments we're well observed from coast to coast, as I'm seeing from social media. I, too, was surprised that we got called back early for this. I think we all agreed that we were going to do the five hours, which would have been two on Friday, two on Monday and maybe one more next week, and we knew that we could have extended meetings.
Having said that, I like this amendment. I like what Mr. Rayes has brought forward in proposed section 9.2, subsections (1), (2) and (3).
As we move forward on this, let's not forget the conventional television stations, the networks. My fear with this bill, if it does pass, is that we're going to see more carnage in that business, television and radio.
We've seen enough in the last year or two, but my fear now is that we have forgotten about those that we were to deal with first of all in this bill. The carnage with layoffs could be tremendous in the fall once this bill does pass.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
View Alain Rayes Profile
Mr. Chair, thank you for allowing me to introduce amendment CPC‑9.3.
I apologize for earlier. In addition to voting, I made a gesture. As you all know, the lights in the committee room are automatic. Our meeting is long, the lights went out suddenly, and I am slightly claustrophobic.
Having said that, I'd like to introduce amendment CPC‑9.3 right away. It proposes that Bill C‑10, in clause 7, be amended by adding after line 19 on page 8 the following:
9.2 An online undertaking that provides a social media service is deemed not to exercise programming control over programs uploaded by any user of the social media service who is not the provider of the service or the provider’s affiliate, or the agent or mandatary of either of them.
We are therefore proposing to add a new section to the Broadcasting Act.
I'd like to exercise my right to explain this amendment, as we may not all have had a chance to chat about it. It is quite consistent with what we are trying to do, which is to improve the bill as a result of the withdrawal of section 4.1 originally proposed in the bill, and the refusal to reinstate similar provisions through our amendment CPC‑9.1.
Earlier, the conversation was about protecting users or small players on social networks who are not part of the so‑called closed broadcasting system. The original intent of this bill was to regulate broadcasting companies like Netflix and Disney+. However, as we all know, it has taken a completely different turn since the beginning of the debate. So we see a loophole there.
According to the definition proposed in the bill, “programming control” means control over the selection of programs for transmission, but does not include control over the selection of programming services for retransmission. We believe that the CRTC should not consider that social media sites must exercise programming control over the content that users upload. The CRTC would be over‑regulating, which would make it extremely difficult for those users. It would increase the bureaucracy and cause some stress to those people who use social networks in a completely free way.
Not everyone sees this, but again, there is a real difference compared to a broadcaster in the so‑called closed system. Everyone has used Netflix before. When you log on to Netflix, you see the programming. In terms of discoverability, we can assume that it must be quite simple to access so‑called Canadian programming, or more specifically, French‑language or Quebec programs among all the programs that are offered.
When we think of Netflix, we think of a program in a specific setting. I'm thinking of the French series Lupin, whose second season we're all waiting for, which will be released on June 11. It will be in the programming, it's settled, it's clear to everyone. The programming can't change at any time. When one season is over, we wait for the release of the second season, which takes some time to be produced. All the better if it's done with artists from our country, whether they are Quebeckers, Canadians, francophones, anglophones, indigenous or anyone else.
Then we have the broadcasters of the so‑called open system, which includes social networks in some cases. It can involve everyone. I'm not a company like Netflix, but I can post things on social media. My colleague Mr. Poilievre, who spoke earlier, has many more followers than I do. I'm sure he doesn't want a federal agency to have a say in what he wants to post.
In a recent decision, a judge brought the CBC to heel over its criticism of the Conservative Party for posting a video with excerpts from public broadcasts. The last thing we want is for users, whether they are politicians, the public or artists, to be regulated in this way.
The purpose of the amendment is to remove the notion that social media sites have control over programming. The approach we are proposing today, in practical terms, is in line with that of the European Union in its Audiovisual Media Services Directive. It's important to say that we are not reinventing the wheel. This would allow us to conform to the international practices of countries that are trying to find a fair and equitable way to include social networks. What I am proposing in amendment CPC‑9.3 is nothing out of the ordinary. It is perfectly aligned with current practices in the European Union.
The European Union uses the concept of editorial responsibility, which roughly corresponds to our concept of programming control, to differentiate services like YouTube from other players in the so‑called closed broadcasting system and platforms like Netflix or Disney+. The European Union makes a distinction in this regard, which the current Liberal government and Minister Guilbeault do not. Perhaps that's why he has been so confused in the various interviews he has given. Not only the Conservatives and the opposition parties, but all Canadians, experts and political analysts could see his failure to understand the issue, which is extremely complex. This is something new; it didn't exist 30 or 40 years ago. With our proposal, we are trying to strike the right balance, or at least improve the bill as introduced.
So I was saying that the idea is to differentiate services like YouTube from other players in the so‑called closed broadcasting system and other platforms.
According to the European Union directive, editorial responsibility for programming means exercising effective control over both the selection of programs and how they are organized, chronologically, for example.
As I explained earlier, on Netflix, there is a set schedule. There is no to‑ing and fro‑ing programming, no algorithms that mean that all the content can change in real time. That simply makes it impossible to apply measures to control discoverability without penalizing certain artists and certain Canadians and Quebeckers who use social networks to make their voices heard.
We are therefore talking about control over the way television programs are scheduled or, in the case of on‑demand audiovisual media, listed. It is a way of providing service.
We believe it is necessary to make a distinction to include video sharing services.
The European Union has expressly recognized that a video sharing platform that uses algorithms and automatic means to organize content does not necessarily have editorial responsibility for it. This is extremely important. I want everyone to understand what I'm saying. It is not we who are saying this, it is the European Union. If these platforms do not have editorial responsibility for the content, how can they be forced to ensure discoverability?
It is important to note that some 500 hours of video are uploaded on YouTube every minute worldwide. I repeat: on YouTube, 500 hours of videos are uploaded every minute. We often use YouTube as an example because it is one of the biggest players, but there are all the other platforms that we can't name. We, as politicians, officials and the like, are sometimes in a bubble and we don't even know all the other platforms that young people are using right now, or all the ones that will be created in the future and used by the generations that will follow us. Technology is changing so fast. Five years ago, nobody knew about TikTok. Today, even politicians are pressured to use that platform and post videos of themselves dancing or singing on it. Some people do it; personally, I'm not there yet.
The YouTube model presents videos to users based on their search criteria. YouTube doesn't decide what content to suggest, the user requests do. If I want to see Canadian content or a Canadian artist, if I want to listen to a Céline Dion song and send it to someone afterwards, I do my own search. If I want to see Canadian content, I'll type “Canadian singer” into Google and, believe me, the answer will come up. People know how to program keywords to be discovered. We don't need to ask YouTube to do it for us. We are all capable of doing it. I can do it, the members of this committee can do it, everyone can do it.
People will make their own requests according to their preferences. In some cases, YouTube will recommend content based on users' search histories or the content that they have already listened to, among other things.
I personally subscribe to Spotify. I always have five lists available to me based on the type of music that I listen to. When I'm tired of listening to the playlist that my children prepared for me, because I'm unable to create one myself, I can choose another one from the five suggested to me. The suggested content varies. This gives me the chance to listen to something new.
Given the type of music that I listen to, especially music from Quebec, I discovered a young up‑and‑coming artist. You may not believe me, but he's the son of one of my wife's best friends. This friend lives a three‑hour drive from us. Coincidentally, Spotify introduced me to this young artist through my playlist, when I didn't even know that he was on the platform. I was very proud to call and tell him that Spotify introduced me to him and that my children were listening to him through my playlists, and so on. He's a young artist making his mark. His music is now being heard by people all over the French‑speaking world, not just in Quebec and Canada. You can imagine the boost that this can give to his budding career.
A social media outlet with an almost infinite supply of content can't be treated in the same manner as a platform that orders and acquires specific content, such as Netflix. It's impossible, even utopian, to imagine that, through Bill C‑10, we can ask the CRTC to manage players in the closed broadcasting system, platforms such as Netflix and Disney+, and social networks in the same way.
The CRTC hasn't even been able to establish clear rules between the big and small players in telecommunications with regard to competitive rates. We all know that. We're currently talking about this matter in the House of Commons. The CRTC found it too complex to strike a balance between the big players and the small companies, which drive down prices for all consumers.
We're now asking them to find a way to play within the algorithms of platforms where 500 hours of videos are uploaded every minute.
It makes sense to impose standards and obligations on the content controllers when the content is ordered and the controls can be implemented effectively. I want to say that to the people who are tuning in.
We can't consider that services with search engine‑like functions, which help users find content, contain organized content. This simply isn't possible. We can't consider that they selected content for their users either.
The European Union has acknowledged this difference in nature between open and closed platforms. How can the European Union understand this, but not the Liberal government and its minister? I can't believe it when I see this.
If we were to move forward, if Canada were to apply the same broadcasting standards and obligations to user‑generated content, whether we're talking about an open platform such as YouTube or a platform such as Disney+, we would be the only country in the world to do so. I repeat: we would be the only country in the world to do so.
After hearing the explanations provided by the minister in his various interviews, it worries me that we're the only country in the world to implement these types of regulations, especially when we don't have a good understanding of the technical details being discussed. We aren't experts. The experts came to talk to us about the topic.
I didn't speak extensively about freedom of expression or discoverability. I discussed a situation that's currently an issue. We must find a way to improve this flawed bill, despite the fact that a gag order has been imposed on us. In any case, the Liberals can do as they please, with the help of the Bloc Québécois and the NDP. The NDP expressed outrage and said that imposing the gag order made no sense. However, they took part in the discussions to sneak in today's meeting, which we were called to without notice.
Yet, when the bill arrives in the Senate, do you think that the senators won't try to address the flaws? They're smart as well. Moreover, we won't even have finished dealing with all the amendments before us. Senators certainly won't want to vote without having done the thorough work or without having studied all these amendments.
We have a week and a half left before the House of Commons draws to a close. We already know that the Liberal government is recruiting for the election that should be called as soon as the summer break is over. In other words, the cart is being put before the horse. There will inevitably be a hurdle when the bill reaches the Senate. Even if, through various tactics, the Liberals manage to speed up the process, there will be a challenge.
Some people may think that, with the passage of this bill, we can provide support for Canada's cultural infrastructure starting tomorrow morning. The minister is trying to make everyone believe that we're currently losing $70 million each month that could be reinvested in culture. In any case, when it comes to releasing funds, the Liberals have no problem. They print money. For them, money grows on trees. If there's an emergency and support is needed, they have no issue finding money. They come up with indirect ways to do so.
Today, through amendment CPC‑9.3, I'm proposing another attempt. Earlier, amendment CPC‑9.2 was rejected. Yet we proposed thresholds that were below those of Australia, supposedly the current model in this area. I chose lower thresholds, thinking that perhaps I would convince my colleagues in the Bloc Québécois, the NDP and the Liberal Party that basic guidelines were absolutely necessary and that we couldn't leave this completely in the hands of the CRTC without drawing any lines. We saw what happened in the case of French‑language content.
I'm thinking of my colleague, Martin Champoux. He knows how much I appreciate him.
By the way, Mr. Champoux, I have some muffins for you in my car. I thought that I would be seeing you. However, since I'm leaving after the meeting to pick up my daughter in Montreal, I won't be able to give them to you today. That said, I hope to see you again before June 23.
I can't understand why the Bloc Québécois would agree to give more powers to a Canadian organization that has difficulty managing these things, even though they wanted to prioritize francophone and Quebec culture. The current situation is completely illogical.
We're told to support the content. We'll do so. We want the legislation to apply to digital broadcasters in a fair manner, compared to traditional broadcasters. However, we're now in a completely different realm, since we're talking about all social media.
The open letters floating around are calling for the sharing of advertising revenue as a way to help our print media. This bill doesn't provide any support measures. There's a reason why all these publishers are saying loud and clear that the government hasn't done anything. It hasn't done anything in this bill to regulate the role of CBC/Radio‑Canada. It hasn't done anything for the writers, who are saying that nothing has been done for them.
Former commissioners and senior CRTC officials now represent several groups, including Timothy Denton, Konrad von Finckenstein, Peter Menzies, Michel Morin and Philip Palmer, who was legal counsel at the Department of Justice and, I believe, general counsel at the Department of Communications. All these people, who know the structure of the CRTC because they worked there, are saying that this must be stopped, that it simply doesn't make sense.
This is on top of the comments made by all the law professors. It isn't just Michael Geist. Many others have stood up. These people know that this bill, if passed, will be challenged immediately.
At this point, we can't play our role as legislators to help the cultural community at all. A gag order has been imposed on parliamentarians who are trying to correct and improve the current bill.
I'll stop here for now. I may have more comments to make later, since I'm sure that some people will be asking officials about the potential impact of our proposals.
I just want to remind people that, when considering this bill, they should take into account the difference between digital media or broadcasters that generate content within a defined structure, and social networks, which are platforms that generate so‑called open content. These are two completely different things. Netflix can't be treated the same as a social network. People can't upload content to Netflix, but they can upload content to YouTube. This platform can serve as a launch pad for artists to promote themselves to other users around the world. Afterwards, the Netflixes of the world or traditional broadcasters can raise the profile of these artists through documentaries or new shows. All this helps to increase the number of success stories and the discoverability of our Quebec, Canadian, francophone, anglophone and indigenous artists, or our artists of any origin.
I hope that you'll consider my recommendation through amendment CPC‑9.3.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
View Scott Simms Profile
Lib. (NL)
That is not a point of order. It is a very good point of generosity, but I'm afraid I'll have to rule it out of order.
Now we're all on a culinary track, so let's move off it for a moment and go back to Bill C-10.
Before I go any further, I see Ms. Dabrusin and Mr. Genuis. However, I think, Mr. Genuis, I referred to you earlier, so I'm going to put you first. Then I'll have Ms. Dabrusin follow.
Go ahead, Mr. Genuis.
Thomas Owen Ripley
View Thomas Owen Ripley Profile
Thomas Owen Ripley
2021-06-09 20:15
As the committee is aware, Bill C-10 as tabled includes a definition of “programming control”. That term is used in a few places in Bill C-10. You will see a couple of references to it throughout the policy objectives section. With respect to regulatory powers, you will see it referenced in one place, in proposed paragraph 10(1)(c), with a discussion of programming standards.
The definition was included in Bill C-10 to recognize the fact that there are different business models out there. For some of those business models you have the distribution of content, but the entity distributing that content isn't exercising any control over the selection of those programs. Perhaps one of the most simple examples to understand is that in a conventional system, you have cable and satellite companies that transmit the TV channels of others. The TV channel exercises control over the programming that's included on their channel, but Rogers Cable or Bell or Vidéotron do not. This definition was included to make the distinction, again, between those business models where a company does and does not have control. This was intended to be a determination in fact that would be made about any given situation.
The amendment proposed by Mr. Rayes would essentially have the committee clarifying or making it “deemed”—I think that's the word used in Mr. Rayes' amendment—that in terms of content that is uploaded to social media services by unaffiliated users, that social media service is deemed not to have programming control over it.
With respect to the regulatory powers of the CRTC, it would only be a question of whether or not proposed paragraph 10(1)(c) would apply to social media companies. I know we haven't gotten there yet, but to my recollection from a few committee meetings ago, government members did indicate that the intention is to limit those powers as well and their application to social media services. That would be the point at which this amendment would come into play. It's not really directly relevant to proposed subsection 2(2.1).
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thomas Owen Ripley
View Thomas Owen Ripley Profile
Thomas Owen Ripley
2021-06-09 20:37
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I never want to presume.
When you look at online services like Spotify, the reality is that you do see less Canadian, francophone artists, for example, surface in search results. Indeed, the reason that discoverability powers were included in Bill C-10 from the get-go was to recognize that if we want to make sure that our Canadian artists and creators are being surfaced on these platforms, the CRTC needs the tools to do that.
To your point, we expect that the impacted social media service or the impacted online undertaking would obviously still have control over how they did that, in a way that would continue to jive with their business model.
View Scott Simms Profile
Lib. (NL)
Welcome back, everyone, to clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-10. This is meeting number 40.
(On clause 7)
The Chair: As you know from the last meeting, we left off with amendment PV-21.1.
Ms. McPherson, you have your hand up. Is there something I can address?
View Heather McPherson Profile
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I brought forward a motion last week for this committee because I am quite concerned that we are not progressing through Bill C-10 at the rate that I think we all want to. I hope that everybody on this committee is interested in making sure that we get the very best piece of legislation that we possibly can at the end of this clause-by-clause process, and that we are all being very propositional to add amendments to try to make this the very best legislation we can, which will protect the Canadian broadcasting landscape, protect Canadian artists and our cultural sector, which is vitally important, and also ensure that Canadians' freedom of expression is protected.
I want to be as propositional as I can. I want to work with all committee members to make this happen. I know it's extremely important legislation. As we know, it has not been updated in 30 years and it's well overdue.
I know there are times during July and August that we are unable to sit, and I do also realize that this would mean we would be sitting, in person, in Ottawa, but I would like to propose that the committee take the decision to sit into July and August to ensure that we have time to complete this work. I think that allocating to stop the debate and to stop the conversation on Bill C-10 would cause a lot of problems, because we won't have had time to go through the important amendments that I know all parties are putting forward.
That said, I also think that filibustering and not letting us get this work done is also a mistake. This gives us a little bit more space, a little bit more runway to get a good piece of legislation.
View Julie Dabrusin Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you.
I agree with Ms. McPherson that extra time would have helped, certainly at the beginning, to try to move this forward. In fact, several times at the beginning of the study of Bill C-10, I tried to get extra time for extra meetings so that we could move through this quickly.
We have now reached a point where, in the last meeting, we did not vote on a single amendment. Adding extra meetings during the summer isn't going to help us get to where we need to be because at this point, we have just reached a standstill. Quite frankly, Ms. McPherson is well aware that there is a motion for time allocation and I would hope she would support that so that we can put this important bill forward and make sure that we are doing what we need to have web giants pay their fair share and to support Canadian artists.
I would point out that the Conservatives have been filibustering here at committee, as is their right to do by parliamentary procedure, the same as it is our right to bring forward a motion for time allocation.
I would like to point out to Ms. McPherson that I think it's been laid bare at this point, when I am looking at statements that have been made by the Conservatives, that the issue here isn't about freedom of expression that they are really pushing for. In fact, I would just point out what Ms. Harder stated to her local press about Bill C-10 specifically, and what is trying to be done. The quote I have is:
These artists are not able to make a living off of what they are producing, so they require grants that are given to them by the government. And so these little, niche lobby groups composed of outdated artists are going to the Liberal government and asking them to charge these large streaming companies in order to bring about more money to put into these grant funds so these outdated artists can then apply for that money so they can continue to create material Canadians don’t want to watch.
That's the fight we're in about Bill C-10 right now. That is saying that artists like the Arkells or shows like Heartland are not things that Canadian want to watch, and that we shouldn't be supporting, as a government. I don't believe that's true.
My question for Ms. McPherson is, is she going to support time allocation so that we can move forward to support artists, or is she going to take the position that these are outdated artists whom we don't need to be providing support for?
View Martin Champoux Profile
View Martin Champoux Profile
2021-06-07 11:17
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I support and applaud what my fellow member Ms. Dabrusin just said in relation to the Conservative member's recent comments in the Lethbridge Herald about her party's position on the situation of artists. Frankly, I was very concerned by the party's view of the cultural sector as well as its read on Bill C‑10, which I think is completely wrong. No doubt, we'll have a chance to revisit the matter later.
I want to speak to Ms. McPherson's motion. As everyone knows, the party leaders are in the midst of negotiating next steps regarding a summer schedule. The committee can't decide to sit in hybrid format until the powers that be have come to an agreement.
In light of that, I think we would do well to propose an amendment to Ms. McPherson's motion, specifying that the motion is conditional on the outcome of the discussions between the party leaders.
I am not suggesting Ms. McPherson's motion has no merit, but I do think we should take into account the talks under way, which will certainly override some of the committee's decisions.
I therefore move that the motion be amended by adding wording to the effect that it is conditional on the outcome of the discussions between the party leaders.
View Alain Rayes Profile
That's fine.
Ms. McPherson, I think what you're trying to do is very noble. We, on our side, have no problem continuing the discussion on Bill C‑10. As we have repeatedly pointed out, the bill has numerous flaws. It's a complex piece of legislation that was poorly thought‑out from the get‑go; it has undergone all kinds of amendments, with more on the way—very significant ones, I might add. I do not see how we can pass this bill without having had the time to take a comprehensive look at it.
Ms. Dabrusin said it was a bit late. Personally, I find it a bit early since we are expecting a time allocation motion to be put forward today. That would bring the committee's work to an end. With a time allocation motion, the Liberals are choosing to put an end to the work before the committee, even though we are constantly told that committees are independent.
I don't necessarily want to propose an amendment to your motion, Ms. McPherson, but I do have something to suggest, ever so politely, of course. Should we not put off consideration of your motion until Friday, to see whether the Liberals follow through on their ultimatum and move a time allocation motion? If they do, it will render your motion unnecessary. If they do not, your motion will be entirely appropriate.
That is my humble suggestion.
View Julie Dabrusin Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Chair, I want to revisit the point that there's absolutely a need to move to time allocation, because we could sit all summer. We are going through entire meetings without voting on a single amendment. For the past several meetings, even when we do vote on an amendment, it's one or two a meeting. At that pace, we will not complete the study of Bill C-10 . We will just keep going for months and months and months.
I do believe there's a bit of a disconnect, if anything, on that, to say that if we just add in a few more meetings this summer we'll be able to complete it. That's clearly not what's been shown over the past weeks and even, I would say, months.
View Martin Champoux Profile
View Martin Champoux Profile
2021-06-07 11:33
When someone moves an amendment to a motion, a debate is obviously supposed to follow.
Fundamentally, I'm somewhat resistant to the idea of doing things out of order. I am of the mind that we should discuss Bill C‑10 as long as possible because I firmly believe that we should pass it. Obviously, my first choice is not to extend into the summer, but if we must, let's do it.
I put forward an amendment to ensure that, if Ms. McPherson's motion was adopted, the discussions under way between the party leaders would not interfere with the decisions we made here, in committee. I simply wanted to make sure we were going to do things in an orderly way.
That said, as was pointed out earlier, there is no point holding additional meetings if we are going to spend them dragging things out, filibustering and preventing Bill C‑10 from ever seeing the light of day, because there are groups who are strongly opposed.
I wanted to make clear my intention, which is essentially to give us some peace of mind in light of the discussions between the party leaders, should Ms. McPherson's motion be adopted.
View Scott Simms Profile
Lib. (NL)
No, we adjourn the debate. It's as simple as that. We then go on to what we were dealing with earlier, which was clause-by-clause on Bill C-10.
Is everybody okay?
View Scott Simms Profile
Lib. (NL)
We're back.
First of all, I want to say a huge thank you to our technical staff for all of these breaks, suspensions and so on. Our technical staff handled it masterfully, I might add. We don't say that enough, but we thank you so much.
Let's get back to the amendments at hand. These are amendments regarding clause 7 that just came to us from the Conservative Party.
Mr. Rayes, I want to point something out before we go any further. I feel it's only necessary I do this in the course of debate.
We have from 9.2 up to 9.6 regarding clause 7, and they follow in succession. However, I would like you to have a look at CPC-9.4. The last three reference numbers are 725. I want you to have a look at that for a moment. There is a problem here in the sense that, as you know, we propose these amendments in the order in which they come in the bill itself, which is C-10.
What you're aiming to do in this case, by adding after line 2 on page 8 of clause 7, should have been moved before PV-21.1, which we debated at the last meeting and voted on at this meeting. It should have been done just before that. So CPC-9.4, 725, is not in its right order. The others are. I'm bringing this to your attention now in case you were hoping to incorporate that into your overall debate. Normally, I'd get to it and make a ruling, but I thought maybe you should know now before you proceed any further.
With that in mind, we return to our clause-by-clause consideration.
Right now, we are on amendment CPC-9.2. Again, the last three numbers of the reference number are 583.
Mr. Rayes, I'm going to give you the floor. If you need any points of clarification on the ruling I just made about 9.4, by all means, ask. In the meantime, you can proceed with CPC-9.2. We're still on clause 7.
Go ahead, sir, you have floor.
Sorry, sir, you're on mute. It's still Monday.
View Alain Rayes Profile
All right. I will move it in due course. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I imagine it's time for me to move amendment CPC‑9.2.
The committee is at an impasse given the disagreement over the various parties who post content on social media. As we understand Bill C‑10, the CRTC—
View Alain Rayes Profile
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I'm not surprised by the outcome. As has been explained so well, we have to proceed in order.
Setting amendment CPC‑9.4 aside, I am coming back to amendment CPC‑9.4. I will read it and, then, explain it. The amendment states that Bill C‑10, in Clause 7, be amended by adding after line 19 on page 8 the following:
9.2 (1) This Act does not apply in respect of online undertakings that have fewer than 500,000 subscribers in Canada or receive less than $80 million per year in advertising, subscription, usage or membership revenues in Canada from the transmission or retransmission of programs over the Internet.(2) Every two years after the day on which subsection (1) comes into force, the Commission must, with the approval of the Governor in Council, review the subscriber and revenue thresholds and may make regulations to increase them as required.…
The amendment addresses the disagreement the committee is having over users who are not professional broadcasters in the digital space. We are in serious disagreement regarding the power to be given to the CRTC to regulate not only users, but also the content they post.
The committee heard from experts on both sides, so I will not rehash the great debate. Ensuring the bill sets out parameters for the CRTC is the lesser of two evils. That way, local artists with fewer than 500,000 YouTube subscribers will not be regulated by the CRTC and can continue to showcase their craft to people all over the world without leaving their homes. These artists who work for themselves online are not asking for any government help, and they do not comprehend why the government is interfering in these platforms.
Despite what some may think, some artists are outside the so‑called conventional system, the one we all know and support when we go to concert halls and buy tickets for performances. When the artists in question create content, we want to make sure they are not subject to Bill C‑10.
That is the purpose of amendment CPC‑9.2. I look forward to hearing the views of my fellow members, in both my party and the other parties, as well as the experts with us today.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
View Alain Rayes Profile
Thank you for that clarification, Mr. Chair, but it's always a pleasure for me. I never try to shy away when I am asked questions, whether they come from a reporter or a colleague in everyday life. I try to answer them to the best of my ability and, if I am wrong, I apologize.
To answer your question, Ms. McPherson, I should say that I have consulted with over 40 organizations in the cultural community since we began our study of Bill C‑10. This is not to say that all cultural organizations agreed with us during these exchanges. However, for all of the amendments that we put forward, or almost—I just want to protect myself, because I don't have all of my data—we made it a guideline to make sure that they represented more than one entity, so that they were not too specific. I don't have the list at hand, because God knows how much documentation I have from all my meetings, but we based it on the concerns of some groups that weren't necessarily against this idea.
That being said, the bill changed along the way, and I apologize for that. If we had known that social networks were going to be included, as a party, we would have invited witnesses who represent those who were left out and whom we did not hear from in committee in the first place. So with this amendment, people that we never had a chance to hear from will now be able to come and talk to us about their concerns. We were surprised, as everyone else was, by what happened.
I repeat, this amendment is perfectly aligned with what Australia is doing. Moreover, the thresholds it proposes, which were recommended by former CRTC experts, are below those of Australia. So I find these thresholds to be legitimate.
Thomas Owen Ripley
View Thomas Owen Ripley Profile
Thomas Owen Ripley
2021-06-07 12:44
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for the question, Ms. Dabrusin.
I'm not able to give a definitive amount to that on the spot. It would take us going back and looking at some of the analyses the department has done underpinning that $830-million number to look at how it might intersect with some of the thresholds that are being put forward.
Bill C-10 put down the marker about material manner, but left it a little bit at the CRTC's discretion because not all services are comparable. For example, I would point the committee towards CBC Gem or TOU.TV, which are our national public broadcaster's online undertakings. The department's assessment was that right now those undertakings have about 200,000 subscribers and earn maybe somewhere in the $20-million to $30-million range in revenue each year.
The government's perspective would be that, obviously, our national public broadcaster and its online undertakings have a powerful role to play in contributing to the cultural policy objectives of the Broadcasting Act, yet the intersection with this amendment is that even those online undertakings launched by our national public broadcaster could be excluded if they don't meet the revenue threshold.
Ms. Dabrusin, we'd have to do some further analysis to actually look at the intersection with all the services and assess how that might change our analysis.
Thomas Owen Ripley
View Thomas Owen Ripley Profile
Thomas Owen Ripley
2021-06-07 12:48
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for the question, Mr. Housefather.
Perhaps I will begin by reiterating that the government's position, when it tabled Bill C-10, was acknowledging that there will be many smaller services that are not scoped into the act because of that requirement for there to be a material contribution. The goal was not to scope all those smaller services in.
I think the challenge is that there is a wide variety of business models in the online undertaking space. You have subscription-based services that we all know well, like Netflix or Crave. You pick your favourite subscription services. More and more we are seeing the launch of advertising-supported business models. You can stream your television content or your music content and not actually pay a subscription fee; rather, the service is selling advertising—
View Shannon Stubbs Profile
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
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 Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Profile
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 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 Charlie Angus Profile
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 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
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 Jacques Gourde Profile
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
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
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...
Melissa Lukings
View Melissa Lukings Profile
Melissa Lukings
2021-06-07 12:31
I think the current issue is that perhaps the penalties that currently exist in PIPEDA are not strong enough to deter corporations. I'm not saying to put in new regulations—I'm not saying that—but when you're going to do the digital charter implementation act and you're discussing things like Bill C-10 and Bill C-11, it's important to remember that.
I think there is room for improvement. Because we've found that financial penalties don't really seem to impact companies that make a lot of money, fines could instead be based on percentages. The key here is that we need to not have increased regulation. If what we're trying to do is in fact what we say we're trying to do, which is to reduce human trafficking and harm to young people, additional regulations are not going to help that.
Did I answer your question?
View Scott Simms Profile
Lib. (NL)
Welcome everyone to the continuing study of Bill C-10, clause by clause.
Welcome to everyone although I know we are missing one member at this point. We'll [Technical difficulty—Editor] shortly.
The way this normally works is that when the bells start ringing—I'm of the understanding they will be 30-minute bells—we break at that point. However, in the past when we've faced that, I have extended it to kind of finish what we were thinking about, as it were. To do that, I would need unanimous consent.
Before we came online, Mr. Rayes and I had the discussion about whether to continue or to end or suspend when the bells start ringing.
Mr. Rayes, do you want to start?
View Scott Simms Profile
Lib. (NL)
I was going to say meeting 40, but I knew that was wrong.
This is meeting 39. We are dealing with clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-10.
Welcome, everyone. As was pointed out earlier, we are virtual except for two members who are sitting in our committee room. That might be a positive sign of things ahead.
(On clause 7)
The Chair: Nevertheless, we will start with PV-21.1. As I mentioned, it has been deemed moved. It's from the Green Party.
Mr. Manly, you have the floor.
View Alain Rayes Profile
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I want to start by thanking Mr. Manly for explaining his amendment, because it was clear he had concerns about the freedom of expression of certain creators and Canadians who post content on the web. I think he has the right idea in mind. Like us, he is trying to remedy Bill C‑10's failings.
I do have a few questions for the experts, though. Perhaps Mr. Manly can chime in as well.
As per Mr. Manly's amendment, the end of new paragraph 9.2(a) reads “except where the Canadian creator of a program has voluntarily chosen to be subject to the Act for discoverability purposes”.
I have to wonder because the explanatory note provided to the minister by justice officials does not refer solely to Canadian creators of programs, as we imagine them when we think of traditional broadcasters. The purpose is to apply the act to digital broadcasters in the same way it applies to traditional broadcasters.
Like a number of experts, former senior CRTC officials and other Canadians, the Conservatives are concerned about all Canadians who upload content on social media platforms or use web-based applications, whether for exercise or gaming. The explanatory note even states that, under Bill C‑10, the CRTC could possibly regulate audiobooks and podcasts. It refers not just to Canadian creators of programs as we think of them, but also to anyone who currently downloads or transmits information via web-based platforms and applications.
How will the government or CRTC make sure 38 million Canadians have prior knowledge that they can voluntarily choose to be subject to the act for discoverability purposes? That is my first question for the experts.
Second, who will that obligation fall to? The CRTC or the government? Am I mistaken to think that, should it be adopted, Mr. Manly's amendment would give rise to an obligation to inform all Canadians of this option?
Mr. Manly can give his take, if he likes, but I'd like to hear from Mr. Ripley first. Actually, Mr. Chair, you can decide who should have the floor.
Thomas Owen Ripley
View Thomas Owen Ripley Profile
Thomas Owen Ripley
2021-06-04 14:02
Perfect. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Bill C‑10 sets out the regulatory power to implement a registration system to help the CRTC administer the system. The CRTC would then know whether an online undertaking was operating in Canada, for instance. That is why the bill grants the power.
Of course, with the removal of new section 4.1, as initially proposed, and the inclusion of social media in the bill, regulations governing registration could apply to social media. However, I want to point out that the bill does not apply to users. Again, the powers granted under new sections 9.1, 10 and 11.1 really apply to online undertakings and traditional broadcasters.
The idea is not to establish a registration system that would apply to users. Again, the exclusion in new subsection 2(2.1) very clearly states that users are not considered to be broadcasters and are not subject to CRTC regulations. The requirement to register with the CRTC applies instead to social media services and other online undertakings.
View Kevin Waugh Profile
Thank you, Chair.
Welcome to the officials of the Department of Canadian Heritage.
I, too, want to thank Mr. Manly for his efforts in bringing forward amendments to the Broadcasting Act. As you've all talked about, it hasn't been updated for 10 years. I think for the last several months we forgot about the conventional broadcasters. We've dipped into the digital world, and when we first started this it was all about the conventional broadcasters, who are suffering badly in this country.
Many radio and television stations are leaving the airwaves almost monthly. Mr. Manly would know that because he was a part of community radio for many years. He's a producer. It gets harder and harder to sell a product when there is black on TV channels. I look at B.C. and see that all the radio stations out there have gone dark over the last year, and he's seen that too.
I want to thank Mr. Manly for talking about the point system, because it's very complicated. You need the score of six out 10. When we talk about Canadians.... Where is it being shot? Where is it being produced? Who are the actors or actresses involved? Then there's the MAPL system. Those are the discussions we can't forget about here in committee, Mr. Chair. I want to thank Mr. Manly for bringing that out, because he's been involved in community radio for decades, and as a producer he gives us some insight into that.
To the department officials, this is an interesting proposition, because Ian Scott, the current chair of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, came to the committee on March 26. Now what we're seeing, and the departmental officials have acknowledged this today, is that this will be an operational challenge. Since proposed section 4.1 was eliminated in April, Mr. Scott hasn't had the ability to talk about the CRTC.
When Mr. Scott was in committee and I asked him point-blank whether he had the capability to enforce Bill C-10, the first answer coming out of his mouth was “yes” but that he had to go to Treasury Board. We all know what that's going to be, asking for more money on behalf of the CRTC to operate this. It is a concern.
Mr. Ripley, I'm just going to ask you this, because like I said, on March 26 we had the CRTC in front of us, and then we've seen all of these changes and operational challenges. What you've told us here today will be front and centre with the CRTC. Could you elaborate on those operational challenges, not only money-wise but with the capacity of the CRTC?
You have heard me and Mr. Manly talk about the capacity of the CRTC for years. They give the seven-year licences and then walk away, and then come back six and a half years later to have a peek. When I hear operational challenges tied into the CRTC, wow, I see a red flag.
I will leave it up to the department officials. I would like you to explain the operational challenges to the committee as we move forward with this amendment. What are the operational challenges that you, as a department, see the CRTC will have to be aware of going forward here?
This is for anyone in the department.
Thomas Owen Ripley
View Thomas Owen Ripley Profile
Thomas Owen Ripley
2021-06-04 14:18
What the minister had said, Mr. Waugh, was that he intended to bring forward the policy direction following royal assent of the bill and to ask for the first tranche of regulatory work to be completed in the nine months. That first tranche primarily includes putting in place a framework whereby the online undertakings—the online broadcasters—would be required to contribute.
I think there is recognition that it would ambitious to expect everything related to C-10 to be completed in nine months. That's why that first phase would focus on having the online undertakings contribute, with a two-year horizon for all of the work to be completed.
View Rachael Harder Profile
Thank you so much.
Mr. Chair, interestingly enough, the member who just spoke before me brought up a really good point, and that is that he feels the members of this committee—in particular, I think referencing the members who are on the Conservative side of the table—are frustrating the process. I can understand that he feels maybe a little bit frustrated by that process.
Nevertheless, there is something very important that is going on here. In the same way that he felt it was necessary to clarify that for the Canadian public who might be watching today, I feel that it's very important to further clarify.
Right now at committee, we are discussing Bill C-10, clause by clause, which means that we're going through it line by line and we're determining which parts of this bill are great and should move forward and which parts of this bill may be questionable. Perhaps there are some that need to be amended. Maybe there are even some subamendments that are necessary in order to help strengthen this piece of legislation. In addition to that, there may be some parts of the bill that need to come out altogether.
View Scott Simms Profile
Lib. (NL)
Hold on one second, everybody, please.
I gave Mr. Housefather quite a bit of latitude here to talk about the process we're working through here. I'm affording Ms. Harder the same, although Ms. Harder might.... That can only go on for so long, because, as Ms. Dabrusin pointed out, we are on PV-21.1.
Some people refer to the debate that has happened in the House. I have absolutely no instruction from the House, other than what we are doing right now, which is that we're in the middle of clause-by-clause on C-10.
Ms. Dabrusin, yes, she does have the floor following Mr. Housefather.
Ms. Harder, you have the floor.
View Scott Simms Profile
Lib. (NL)
I'm not going to make a ruling on that, other than to state the fact that there have been discussions outside committee. That is true. I would not want us to get into a full-fledged conversation, although two parties in this committee have now discussed it.
I please ask, once again, that we stick to the clause-by-clause that is before us, on Bill C-10, and we are currently on PV-21.1, an amendment moved by Mr. Manly.
Ms. Harder, you have the floor again.
View Kerry Diotte Profile
Ambassador, it's really good to see you. It's unfortunate that with COVID we can't be in person, but hopefully soon...all that good stuff.
I know Yvan was talking about having gone and observed the election. I did the same, and it really was one of the highlights of my career, especially seeing how Ukrainians really cherish democracy. There's a real lesson for Canadians in that whole thing.
As you know, we were both journalists, and you were probably more famous than I ever was. You actually worked very hard on the movement against censorship. We're kind of working right now, as the official opposition, against Bill C-10, which is kind of a censorship bill. That's neither here nor there, but why is it that the world is not hearing more about what's going on at the border with Russia? It just seems like the media's not there. What can be done? What's happening?
View Scott Simms Profile
Lib. (NL)
Welcome back, everybody, to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. This is meeting number 38.
Pursuant to the order of reference of Tuesday, February 16, 2021, the committee resumes consideration of Bill C-10, an act to amend the Broadcasting Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other acts.
Today’s meeting is taking place in a hybrid format. Once again, I'd like to ask everyone for their patience. Let's try not to to talk all over each other because it gets very confusing for the people watching. It gets even more confusing for the people who are taking the record of what we are saying. I appreciate your patience in that.
(On clause 7)
The Chair: Let's dive right into where we left off last Friday. We are now coming up on an amendment put forward by the Conservative Party. That's CPC-9.1, if we all want to turn to our documents.
View Alain Rayes Profile
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I've been looking forward to moving amendment CPC-9.1 for nearly a week now. I'll read it first and then explain why I was so eager to present it.
This amendment proposes that Bill C-10, in clause 7, be amended by adding after line 19 on page 8 the following:
9.2 This Act does not apply in respect of
(a) programs that are uploaded to an online undertaking that provides a social media service by a user of the service—who is not the provider of the service or the provider’s affiliate, or the agent or mandatary of either of them—for transmission or retransmission over the Internet and reception by other users of the service; and
(b) online undertakings whose broadcasting consists only of such programs.
With your permission, I'd like to present a summary and history of the bill.
As the minister noted, Bill C-10 was introduced last November. Everyone had been waiting for this bill, under which the Canadian government, through the CRTC, would regulate digital broadcasters such as Netflix, Spotify and Disney+—the ones the minister has named from the start—in a way that would be fair and equitable for so-called conventional broadcasters such as CTV, CBC/Radio-Canada, TVA, global and others. The same would be true for the various radio stations, CBC/Radio-Canada and commercial stations.
Although the government has been in power for six years now, this much anticipated bill wasn't introduced until last November. As has been noted on numerous occasions, the committee has worked hard not to slow down proceedings. We even agreed to conduct a pre-study of the bill in committee both to avoid delays and to enable members to express their views on it in the House of Commons. Discussing a bill in the House is an entirely legitimate process, and it's a member's privilege to do so. It was all the more legitimate in the case of Bill C-10 because we'd been waiting for it for so long and it contained significant flaws, as may be seen from the number of amendments. The witnesses who've appeared, even those who have wholeheartedly supported the bill from the start, have recommended many amendments, and speakers who completely opposed the bill naturally had many amendments as well.
As a result, nearly 120 amendments have been introduced by all political parties and even by the government itself. In fact, nearly one quarter of those amendments have come from the government. The Bloc québecois has introduced 37, the Green Party 37, the NDP 14 and the Conservative Party 15 or so. That's excluding all the other amendments that have been introduced along the way.
A key event occurred a few weeks ago in the course of this process:section 4.1, which was initially included in Bill C-10, was deleted, which raised red flags for many experts. Michael Geist, in particular, discussed it, and I would note that other experts of course expressed views that differed from his. My Bloc québécois colleague said so as well when we finally got a chance to hear from the experts following the presentations of the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Canadian Heritage. Experts for and against Bill C-10 have thus come and told us what they thought of it since proposed section 4.1 was deleted. The bill then turned into something completely different. It wasn't just about digital broadcasters anymore; it was also about social media, platforms and related applications.
Once again I'd like to note that many experts have spoken. An attempt is under way to make us believe that the cultural sector is at war with free speech and net neutrality advocates. There's no such war between those two camps, contrary to what the government would have us believe. We of the Conservative Party think we can reconcile the two concepts, as other countries have done.
It's clear in our minds that the government must support the cultural sector. It also has to pass a bill to ensure that digital and conventional broadcasters are treated fairly. However, I think the government was mistaken in deleting proposed section 4.1 because, in doing so, it attacks users and the content they upload to the Internet.
So the committee's proceedings were brought to a halt. I want to make it clear that, if the government, at the outset, had accepted our initial proposal, that it invite the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Canadian Heritage, we would only have wasted about 48 hours, but the Liberals opposed that proposal.
Thanks to our teamwork, however, we finally managed to succeed. It was even a Liberal member, Mr. Housefather, who submitted a new proposal similar in tenor to what we had initially requested. After the committee's proceedings had been halted for nearly three weeks, we ultimately heard once again from the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Canadian Heritage, and, to our delight, some experts also came and gave us their opinions.
However, people are still raising red flags. Many wonder about all the powers being conferred on the CRTC. They say we want to give the CRTC even more powers. At the same time, experts who had previously worked at the CRTC told us it was unacceptable to delete proposed section 4.1 from the bill from the get-go.
I'm thinking of Timothy Denton, who was commissioner of the CRTC from 2009 to 2013, and Konrad von Finckenstein, the CRTC's president from 2007 to 2012. Peter Menzies, who was vice-president for telecommunications at the CRTC from 2013 to 2018, even said this was a full-fledged attack on freedom of expression and the very foundation of democracy. In his view, it's hard to contemplate the levels of hubris, incompetence or both that would lead people to believe such an infringement of rights is justifiable. He was talking about the minister. I'm also thinking of Michel Morin, who was national commissioner of the CRTC from 2008 to 2012, and Philip Palmer, general counsel at the Department of Justice and head of legal services at the Department of Communications from 1987 to 1994. These are sound, reliable people.
We also had professors such as Michael Geist, whom we all know, but also Emily Laidlaw, professor of law at the University of Calgary, and Dwayne Winseck, professor at Carleton University.
Artists and web influencers also expressed their opposition. In particular, Mike Ward, an occasionally controversial Quebec artist, made a public statement on the subject on social media.
This is a bill that challenges the very basis of net neutrality. It has to be said that, if we agreed to regulate the Internet this way, it would be a global first because no country has gone this far.
We can even raise questions about discoverability. I'm speaking to Quebec francophones here: if other countries like France, which has 67 million inhabitants, or other countries in the Francophonie, which have 400 million, decided to do the same thing, artists here at home would lose their discoverability potential. There are approximately 9 million or 10 million of us francophones in Canada.
According to an article in Le Devoir, artists from my region clearly question what the government is doing on social media. They wonder how the government can consider regulating, through an agency, platforms that constantly update in real time. YouTube, for example, can update more than 500 times a day.
With regard to net neutrality, it's important to note that the Prime Minister said in 2017 that net neutrality had to be defended. When she was Minister of Canadian Heritage, Mélanie Joly stated in her cultural policy that the government was in favour of the principle of net neutrality. Navdeep Bains, while Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, said that net neutrality was one of the crucial issues of our time, just as freedom of the press and freedom of expression had been.
At 6:18 p.m. on May 22, 2018, the present Minister of Justice, but at the time parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, told the House of Commons the following:
It is clear that the open Internet is a remarkable platform for economic growth, innovation, and social progress in Canada and around the world. It is essential to a modern digital economy and society. Many activities depend on it, including access to health care, education, employment, entertainment, and more. More broadly, it is vital for freedom of expression, diversity, and our democratic institutions. A flourishing and vibrant democracy is possible only when citizens are able to communicate and access information freely.
It was the Government of Canada, the Liberals, who said these things.
Consequently, we want to give the committee, in all the work we're doing, an opportunity to adopt a provision that would compensate for the deletion of initially proposed section 4.1. That would be like putting a band-aid on Bill C-10, which we believe is fundamentally flawed.
We hear a lot of groups talking. They're entitled to do so, and, I should point out, they represent a lot of people. I'm thinking, in particular, of Quebec's artistic sector, which legitimately advocates in favour of Bill C-10 given the impact it might have on its network. However, I want to clarify one point, and I'd really like everyone, including the people watching us on the web, to listen closely to what I'm about to say.
When the minister introduced Bill C-10, even before proposed section 4.1 was deleted, he said in his interviews, even on Tout le monde en parle, that digital broadcasters such as Netflix, Spotify and Disney+ were going to invest nearly $800 million by 2023, if I'm not mistaken, in Canadian anglophone and francophone content, particularly in Quebec francophone productions and first nations productions.
Incidentally, it took us months to access the calculations that yielded those figures. The minister said that the assumption used in the calculations was that the same rules would be applied as those applicable to our conventional broadcasters, but that would depend on what the CRTC decided in the following nine months. So we have no guarantee on that if the bill is adopted. However, the minister made that statement before proposed section 4.1 was deleted, and thus before social media were included in the bill, with all the consequences that entails for net neutrality and freedom of expression. These are two principles that are currently missing and that many fiercely advocate.
If we adopt amendment CPC-9.1, we'll find ourselves back where we started. If the government sincerely wants to help the cultural sector and allow this alleged investment of $800 million or $900 million—the minister even said in some interviews that it might be as much as $1 billion—it has to support this amendment because, otherwise, we'll wind up exactly where it initially said we would.
If it doesn't, I invite the minister to provide us with some new figures. If all the digital platforms and applications are included, it won't be just $800 million or $900 million. Given the rule of three, and considering what he's told us, it'll be much more than that, and so much the better for the artists.
Whatever the case may be, given the deletion of proposed section 4.1 and the government's stubbornness, I think we're jeopardizing this bill.
We're talking about the cultural sector right now. However, we received a document last week. I know the members of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage receive a lot of documents, so I can understand why some haven't read them all. Last week, we received a document from the British Columbia Library Trustees Association, an organization that supports and represents trustees in advancing public libraries. I want to emphasize that it represents public not private libraries. This letter was sent on May 13, 2021, and it's one of the documents that all members of the Standing Committee of Canadian Heritage have received. The organization also took the trouble to send it to me personally, with copies to the British Columbia members of Parliament from all parties. The letter reads as follows:
The British Columbia Library Trustees Association, or BCLTA, founded in 1977, is a not-for-profit society and registered charity. As the association for public library trustees in British Columbia, BCLTA supports and represents trustees in their role of overseeing libraries (which have a collective annual budget of over $0.25 billion.
The BCLTA board has been following the discourse regarding Bill C-10 and is sending this letter to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, with copies to all British Columbia MPs, to communicate our concerns regarding the recent exclusion of clause 4.1(1) from Bill C-10.
The BCLTA board endorses freedom of expression as a core principle of Canadian librarianship. Public libraries are impartial collectors and distributors of knowledge in its many forms, including Internet social media. Because public libraries are fee-free and do not require membership, Canadians regard their local libraries as being key to supporting intellectual freedom and open communication. For many Canadians, their public library is the only place where they can participate in online discourse or create and publish end-user content.
This makes the Internet an essential tool for Canadians exercising their right to freedom of speech. Accordingly, the BCLTA board believes CRTC regulation should not be expanded to include Internet platforms such as YouTube and TikTok, which are just two examples of where Canadians may post content. Clause 4.1(1) allows for the exemption of end-user content from regulation by CRTC.
The BCLTA board encourages the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage to press for the reinstatement of clause 4.1(1) of Bill C-10.
Why did I read this letter to you? I could've read many other letters that we've received from associations and organizations that have questions about Bill C-10, particularly since proposed section 4.1 was deleted, because that's when a break occurred. Things were very calm before that. People weren't particularly interested in the bill, except those directly concerned by it.
This letter is just one of the many we've received from thousands of Canadians across country. Setting aside partisanship, our responsibility is to represent all Canadians: Quebeckers and the citizens of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador. In short, we represent Canadians across the country.
I heard the minister attempt to portray those who are fighting for this part of Bill C-10 as people who are opposed to culture. When he attacks us as he has done—and I think he has done so in a crass manner—he attacks all the people and experts who have an opinion different from that of the government. That scares me because freedom of expression is at stake. It is incomprehensible that a minister should make such comments when people legitimately make every effort to ask the right questions. Members of Parliament aren't the only ones who have questions; so do organizations like the British Columbia Library Trustees Association, as well as web artists, influencers and users. Approximately 25,000 Canadians currently earn a living from the web without belonging to any association. I'm talking about the artists who create their works without seeking any subsidies from the government. They do their work and live out their passion.
As I said in one of my speeches, this subject is of deep concern to me. Despite the criticism and attacks that have come my way, I haven't gone to bed troubled one single night since we began debating Bill C-10. I've never found it hard to fall asleep because I'm doing what I think, in my soul and conscience, is best, based on all the information I have gathered since we began studying the bill.
I therefore ask members of the committee to let us move this bill forward. I also ask them to cross their fingers and hope the government doesn't call an election. The fact of the matter is that, if an election is held in the fall before this bill has been passed, it won't the Conservatives' fault. We already know that NDP and Bloc québécois members ultimately want to vote for it, and I'd remind you that the government's in the minority.
If the bill is passed, it will be for one single reason. Although the government has had six years to work on it, Minister Guilbeault failed by deleting proposed section 4.1 one Friday afternoon without even consulting us. He failed to keep us informed and didn't work with us, as he had done from the start in addressing this bill. He delayed the process for three weeks before ultimately deciding to come back and testify before the committee, together with the Minister of Justice, in order to advance the proceedings. Now the Liberal government is making every attempt to call an election in the fall. So it will be a lost cause, despite all the work we've done.
If we want the essential aspects of this bill to advance, even though it's imperfect, whether we're for or against certain parts of it, completely for or completely against, if we want to respect all the speakers who raised yellow, orange and red flags, the least we can do is adopt amendment CPC-9.1.
This is a fundamental issue for us. I hope our discussions will help us achieve that result. I'm eager to hear what you all have to say on the subject, not only my Conservative colleagues, but also the members of the other parties. Even though we have differing views on certain points, I know you have opinions on the subject. It's important that you express them if we are to move forward.
We still have many amendments to examine as part of our study of the bill, as imperfect as it may be. To those who feel the bill has been delayed by the Conservatives, I repeat that we have brought the fewest of the some 120 amendments that have been introduced. Apart from our own, amendments have been introduced by the Green Party—and I'm pleased to see the committee unanimously decided to allow the Green Party to take part in the process—by the Bloc québécois, by the NDP and by the government itself. Just imagine, the government brought forward amendments to its own bill. You have to believe all those amendments will help us come up with an acceptable bill.
I'll conclude with one final comment, because I want to give everyone a chance to speak to amendment CPC-9.1 today.
If the government had first listened to the discussions during the clause-by-close consideration of the bill in committee and had appropriately adapted the section 4.1 it was proposing, we would not be where we are today. If the government and its minister had made a cooperative effort right up to the end, as they wanted to do at the very start, we would not be where we are today. If the government had properly done its work over the past six years, we would not be where we are today. And if the government had not signalled that there might be an election in the fall, we would not be where we are today either.
I am asking the members of the committee to adopt amendment CPC-9.1 so we can continue moving forward in our study of this bill.
Mr. Chair, thank you for allowing me to present this amendment to the members of the committee.
View Rachael Harder Profile
Thank you, Chair.
When we talk about the digital content that is put online and the fact that this bill, if it moves forward the way it currently stands, will censor that content, we need to take that very seriously for two reasons: one, the impact that will have on artists or creators and, two, the impact that will have on their audience, those individuals who go on YouTube and use it in order to access content.
When it comes to the artists, we have to acknowledge that the greatest artists right now and over the last decade have come up through platforms such as YouTube or TikTok. We're talking about artists who are young, aspiring and diverse. We're talking about individuals who belong to different minority groups, represent different viewpoints and are able to bring Canada to life. However, they won't necessarily make the cut when it comes to being acknowledged as “Canadian content producers” because they don't fit the traditional mould.
When the government steps in and imposes these regulatory measures that insist that Canadian content be bumped up in its “discoverability” and that non-Canadian content be bumped down in its discoverability, first of all, they are starting with a false definition of Canadian content, and then they move on to actually demote or degrade or thwart the success of some artists, because, again, those artists won't make the cut.
Let's take Lilly Singh, for example. She's Canadian, fully Canadian, functioning from Canada and in many of her posts she talks about Canadian issues, but in many of her posts, she talks about her Indian culture and heritage. In some of her posts she talks about other countries. In other posts she talks about things that are just hilarious, not necessarily Canadian content per se, but she's Canadian, functioning in Canada and enjoying a life of artistic success. She'd be punished. If Bill C-10 passed, her content would be demoted. It would be moved to the bottom of the page. Meanwhile—I don't know—maybe basket weaving gets moved to the top because everybody wants to learn about basket weaving.
The fact that this is going to have such a detrimental impact on artists and on creators should cause us as committee members to pause for a moment and to consider the amendment that's been put on the table, because this amendment will protect the content that is produced. It will make sure that these artists have a fighting chance, that they are captains of their own destiny, that they get to determine their success based on the way they perform and based on growing an audience organically. Again, I'll remind the committee that 90% of their audience members are beyond the borders of Canada; they are from all over the world.
If we start putting fences around these individuals, sure, they'll protect some artists, but they will imprison other artists. They will actually prevent them from being able to achieve the level of success that they would be able to achieve on their own.
Artists are not asking for more government regulation. In fact, they're telling me quite the opposite. They're telling me they want the government to get out of the way. They're creators. They're creative. They're entrepreneurial. They're hard-working. They don't want the government to step in and dictate to them what they can and cannot do, and they certainly don't want the government to step in and determine what is Canadian and what is not Canadian and whether or not they make the cut. They just want to continue to create and enjoy an audience and provide something of value to those who would enjoy their talents.
I think the idea of protecting “Canadian culture” is a noble one, but in actuality that's not what this bill would do.
This bill will protect a very small niche group, a little niche group of artists who can't compete on new platforms, a niche group of artists who have lobbyists who apparently have been quite effective within this government, a niche group of artists who rely heavily on government grants. Why do they rely on government grants? If the content is wanted, if the content is desirable, then surely there would be a buyer.
Again, there are many digital first creators who are making a go of it. In fact in Canada over 25,000 Canadians have platforms and through them have organically grown an audience and are able to make over $100,000 a year. This bill will put them out of business.
So much for a government that believes in the digital economy. This bill is a direct attack on that. It's shameful.
I think we have to ask ourselves, then, what defines Canadian culture. What defines Canadian content? What is going to make the cut and what isn't? That definition, we discover, is extremely flawed, again putting an end to so many good Canadian artists.
The amendment that's been brought forward would protect the content that individuals post online. It would protect it from getting bumped up or bumped down. It would protect it from having to go through the scrutiny of being determined Canadian or not Canadian and being given a rating out of 10 on just how Canadian it is.
Further, the amendment we put on the table in terms of the content would not only protect the artists and their content but would also facilitate a person's viewing experience. In other words, when we go online in search of content, we're going to have the freedom to explore based on our desires as audience members rather than being dictated to by a government-designed algorithm.
Again, in its current form, this legislation will result in algorithms being put in place that will move content up or down in the queue and make it available to us based on what the government wants us to see, based on “Canadian content”.
Right now, Canadians go online and they go on YouTube and they access the videos they want using a search bar. Once the algorithms figure out that a person really likes looking at cartoons and learning how to draw cartoon characters, the algorithms generate more content for them that is in line with that. It's great. It curates it for us.
What the government is saying with Bill C-10 is that, no, we don't want it curated for you, Canadians. We don't want it curated for the audience member or the user. No, this government wants to dictate what Canadians should and should not have access to. Instead of algorithms curating a platform for you, the government's going to step in and create an algorithm that's going to curate it based on what they think you should see.
That is a direct attack on freedom of expression. That is a direct attack on our charter rights to be able to access information freely, to be able to express ourselves freely, to be able to hold beliefs freely, to be able to hold opinions freely, to be able to use what is now the new public square in order to have our voices heard and to access the voices of others.
It is absolutely necessary that this bill move forward only with this protective mechanism in place, with the protection of content. Content that people post online should not be regulated by the government.
We already have the Criminal Code in place, which of course protects Canadians by making sure that child pornography, let's say, is not posted online, for sure. That type of legislation is appropriate, but to put legislation in place that will rate, somehow, the Canadianness of something, and then determine whether or not it gets to be posted and where it falls in the queue, is inappropriate. That is totally inappropriate. It is extremely dictatorial. It's an affront to democracy.
Numerous experts have spoken out and said that, so why we're even having this conversation is a mystery to me. It's a no-brainer. We live in a democracy. We live in a free society. We believe people's voices should be heard. I mean, this is the government that keeps saying diversity is our strength. This is their chance to stand by that statement. If diversity is truly our strength, then why wouldn't we want to celebrate diversity of thought, diversity of artistic expression, diversity of creativity? This bill will quelch that like never before.
This amendment is needed in order to protect the content that so many post online. This amendment is needed to protect those individuals who wish to access that content freely. Without this amendment, this bill is an absolute disaster. It is an attack on the Canadian people and their freedom.
I'll end there for now.
View Martin Champoux Profile
View Martin Champoux Profile
2021-05-31 12:20
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I'll try to be brief. I simply want to respond to what Mr. Shields said a while ago.
He said something very important when he talked about not rejecting other people's opinions in a discussion. I fully agree with him.
Besides which, we took the time to ask questions, listen to the experts and check whether indeed there was anything to worry about in terms of an attack on freedom of expression for users of digital platforms and social media. I think we kept an open mind on this matter. I fully agree that it is important in debates to remain open to the opinions and ideas of others, because the healthy exercise of democracy means that we shouldn't necessarily cling our positions.
I also just wanted to add that when I said that we had no judges on the committee, I was drawing an analogy, an image to say that what we have here is a dialogue of the deaf. Each party is doggedly defending its positions, and I said that it might take a judge to rule on the matter. I am well aware that these issues will highly likely end up in court.
I also wanted to return briefly to Ms. Harder's lengthy monologue. I got the impression that we were being schooled on the quality of the work that had been done by the committee members, and I must say I take umbrage at this. We received 121 witnesses and 54 briefs during the study and preliminary study of Bill C-10. Indeed, I think that the Conservatives were able to invite many of these witnesses, and our colleagues who were there at the time were very effective. When we were began doing it, I think each of the parties did a good job of inviting the witnesses they felt were most appropriate at the time.
Did we invite everyone who should have been heard? I think we would agree that's impossible, but a call was nevertheless sent out to all interested parties across Canada to prepare a brief to state their opinion on this issue. So I think the work was indeed done well and that several issues were raised by people who were not necessarily there during the studies of Bill C-10, and I'll admit that there were moments when this struck a chord with me.
View Kevin Waugh Profile
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
We've gone an hour and 40 minutes without a break, so I think we can all wait another 20 minutes. I certainly won't speak for 20 minutes, but I want to reiterate what Mr. Rayes and others have said about bringing back proposed section 4.1.
To my dear colleague in the House, Mr. Champoux, I agree that proposed section 4.1 did allow for YouTube to be regulated when it operated as a broadcaster of its own for-profit content. The language of 4.1 said it clearly, but then the department, in December of 2020, in a memo to the minister, clearly stated that YouTube Originals and YouTube Music would be regulated even under 4.1.
I've been quoted several times by the minister in the House and in committee talking about this. Of course, on that Friday afternoon, proposed section 4.1 was suddenly eliminated. I think it's been an interesting conversation, not only today but for the last three weeks. All of our offices, I'm sure, have been inundated with concerns about Bill C-10, and rightfully so. It is an important part of our culture.
I look at the Toronto Sun today, and now we have the federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation doing an attack on culture. That's what we don't want, I believe, in heritage. Now we have creators and culture, so now we have an editorial in the Toronto Sun today, and several comments now, done by Franco Terrazzano. I think as politicians we support our creators. We support our culture in this country, but now all of a sudden what this bill has done is to say, you know, you're a bunch of freeloaders. You've gotten millions of dollars in the past, and now you've been exposed. Many of these groups have lobbied the heritage department over a number of months and years. Now we're seeing the figure that the minister himself brought out of $835 million.
Mr. Chair, we still have some doubts about where that money will come from. I have an idea of where that $835 million will come from. Everyone says it comes from YouTube, and it could come from Amazon, Netflix and so on, but indirectly that comes from Canadian pockets. Don't fool us. That $835 million will come from consumers, on top of what is already put into culture and all the sectors that the heritage department supports in this country. We dearly love the support, especially during the time of the pandemic for the last 15 months. We've seen it. The member for Edmonton Strathcona talks about her constituency and about being viable and wanting to get back to normal and having our culture in the summer and feeding hundreds if not thousands of people in our communities. That's what this is all about.
I must say that Bill C-10 is a disaster now. We need to step back. Let's face it: Tomorrow is June 1, and it may pass the House of Commons but it won't pass the Senate. There's no time in three and a half weeks. This amendment by Mr. Rayes should be brought back in, and for very good reason. Canadian content should be accessible to all—I agree with you guys—but the algorithms will put some ahead and some back. Now we have winners and losers. Who knows? Once you get into the loser category, where you go from there?
Mr. Chair, I just wanted to say that. I won't go on much longer. I used four minutes of the time. I just felt that I should support my colleague Mr. Rayes on bringing back proposed section 4.1.
I think it's a very good amendment to bring back in, because I was quoted several times by the Minister of Canadian Heritage. I thank him for quoting me. “Saskatoon—Grasswood” is what the riding name actually is. He has trouble with saying that at times in the House. When he quotes me in saying that I supported the bill, I did because that's what the bill said in November. Then it was changed in March and April here. I haven't had time to say that on the record, but I think proposed section 4.1 should be brought back in as an amendment.
Thank you.
View Rachael Harder Profile
Thank you, Chair.
Because there have been some misleading remarks made, let me say that this concept of net neutrality is that every single Canadian has equal access to different sites online. Every site is treated with equality, which means that some sites aren't made more prominent than others. It means that speeds for some are not slowing down while speeds for others are speeding up. It means that we, as Canadians, have access to material made available online in an equal fashion: that some things are not discriminated against, some things are not promoted and some things are not shown favouritism.
It's a great principle. It is a principle that so many members of the current government have spoken about in the past, including the justice minister; the former heritage minister, Minister Joly; and the Prime Minister, Mr. Trudeau himself. It is this principle that Canadians would be able to function within this glorious platform that is allowing so many individuals to thrive. They would be able to function within that platform, this tool that we rely on in Canada to access information, to promote other information, to share ideas and to welcome people into their creativity and their artistic expression. It's amazing.
The Internet exists as this amazing place where ideas collide and where, as stated, artistic talent is shared, debate takes place and business transactions transpire, etc. Net neutrality, this principle that all those who use the Internet would be able to do so without being discriminated against, without having some content favoured over others, is a brilliant concept.
For this bill to move forward with the exclusion of proposed section 4.1 is threatening that concept of net neutrality, because instead of all things being considered equal, this bill would move forward in such a way that some content is actually demoted and some content is promoted—not all things are equal.
The hand that guides this process is the government's, through a regulatory arm known as the CRTC. To put the CRTC in control of such a thing is not only daunting for them, by their own admission, but crazy. It's just ludicrous. This bill is under the guise of “modernizing” the Broadcasting Act, but the Broadcasting Act actually shouldn't be applied to the Internet, because the Internet is this incredible place that is limitless. You don't actually need the CRTC to step in and pick winners and losers, to show favouritism to some and to harm others.
What's going on here, if Bill C-10 proceeds without any sort of amendment that would offer protection for the content that individuals post online, is actually the extreme censorship of material that is posted online and, therefore, an attack on this concept of net neutrality, which is something that we have held in high regard for so long. It used to be a principle that was held by all parties, so it wasn't even a partisan issue. Now, with the removal of 4.1, all of a sudden the government has turned this into a massively partisan issue, and for what?
It's certainly not for the benefit of the Canadian public. The only one benefiting from Bill C-10, interestingly enough, is actually, I guess, the government, because it gets to determine the content that Canadians can and cannot access. Then it also actually benefits the big telecom giants, which is interesting, because the government would say, “No, this legislation actually goes against them.”
No, it doesn't. This legislation goes against Canadians. This legislation goes against those who wish to access content online and those who wish to post content online. This legislation goes against our freedom of choice. This legislation goes against our freedom to express ourselves, to share our opinions, to share our beliefs and to share our talents with the world.
That's what this legislation does—if it moves forward in its current form. Again, that is why we should be voting “yes” to the amendment being brought forward. We should want to protect Canadians. We should want to look after their well-being. We should want to give them the freedom to express themselves. We should want to allow Canadians to access the content they so desire.
When we talk about net neutrality, when we talk about Canadians having access to the Internet in an equal fashion, this bill goes against that. The way we restore that principle, the way we return to the advocacy of that principle, is through the amendment that my colleague has presented. I am somewhat perplexed as to why we are not considering this amendment to a greater extent.
Going back to my colleague Mr. Aitchison, he asked why we would be against proposed section 4.1. How is this bill strengthened by its removal, or how, in the opposite of that, is this bill harmed by adding this amendment, which is similar to 4.1? For all of the facial expressions that have been shown and the things that have been lipped, no one has offered to raise their hand and offer an explanation as to why the omission of 4.1 strengthens this bill or, alternatively, why adding this amendment would weaken it.
I guess I would invite that, through you, Mr. Chair. I'm not sure if someone here would be able to provide that explanation. Perhaps the parliamentary secretary would be best positioned to do that. I think many members on this committee would be interested in hearing that justification. I think many of us are baffled right now by the way this is landing.
I'll leave it there.
View Scott Simms Profile
Lib. (NL)
Madam Clerk, we'll have a vote, please.
(Amendment negatived: nays 7; yeas 4)
The Chair: Folks, we are currently five minutes overdue. As you know, we've just filled our normal two hours. Through implied consent, normally we'd adjourn at this hour, and we will do just that. We'll resume again on Friday, June 4.
We'll see you back here again on June 4 for the resumption of clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-10.
The meeting is adjourned.
View Scott Simms Profile
Lib. (NL)
Welcome, everybody. It's been a bit of a break, but we're all back here at the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage discussing, once again, clause-by-clause of Bill C-10.
This is meeting number 37. Pursuant to the order of reference of Tuesday, February 16, 2021, and the motion adopted by the committee on May 10, the committee resumes consideration of Bill C-10.
Today’s meeting takes place in a hybrid format pursuant to the House order of January 25, 2021. I would like to remind everyone on board that screenshots or taking photos of your screen are not permitted. Also when you are not speaking your mike should be on mute. You all know that.
Since we are doing clause-by-clause, I'll give just a quick reminder. If you go back to the documents you have here, you will see in the top right-hand corner—for the people who are watching from all around the world or at least all around the World Wide Web in our universe—if I say PV and a number, PV stands for Parti vert, which is a Green Party-proposed amendment. If it says CPC, that would be a Conservative Party-proposed amendment. NDP would be from the New Democrats. BQ would be from the Bloc Québécois. Of course, LIB is from the Liberal members on our committee. Finally, if an amendment has G and a number attached to it, that is a proposed amendment from the government.
(On clause 7)
The Chair: If you go back to our regularly scheduled programming, you will see that we are currently on BQ-23.
For that, we're going to go to Mr. Champoux.
View Martin Champoux Profile
View Martin Champoux Profile
2021-05-28 13:03
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I'm glad to see you again, friends and colleagues.
Amendment BQ-23 concerns a provision that, under Bill C-10, would be added to the Broadcasting Act to give the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission the necessary verification tools to meet the regulation-related requests it receives. Among other things, persons carrying on broadcasting undertakings are asked to grant the CRTC access to certain information. With this amendment, we wish to clarify, in proposed subparagraph 9.1(1)(j)(v), that the information on broadcasting services includes “any information related to any means of programming control.” We would also like to add subparagraph 9.1(1)(j)(vi) to include “information related to any means of promoting, recommending or selecting programming, including Canadian programming.”
I think it's important that we give the CRTC the necessary tools to verify whether persons carrying on broadcasting undertakings meet the requirements set for them.
I'm open to discussion and await your comments.
Philippe Méla
View Philippe Méla Profile
Philippe Méla
2021-05-28 14:18
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
In the French version, as pointed out by Mr. Housefather, indeed, there are explanations at the end, after the quotation marks. There are two lines of explanation that don't belong in the subamendment, so that would be that.
In terms of the lines, it says:
"Que le projet de loi C-10, à l'article 7, soit modifié par substitution, à la ligne 2, page 8 [...]"
That would be, in fact, line 40 on page 7, because you removed the term “radiodiffusion” in French, so the amendment needs to start at “radiodiffusion” and takes off “services de”. Otherwise, you would have “services de services de radiodiffusion” once it was all included in the text of the bill.
The other problem is that the text you have received from Mr. Aitchison is the text once the amendment of Mr. Champoux is amended, where you need to vote on the subamendment first and then, if adopted, the amendment as amended. There are two things here. If you vote on the amendment as proposed by Mr. Aitchison—what you have received—the French incorporates the whole thing. The English incorporates the whole thing as well, rather than having subamendments as it should be.
Basically, in English it should read that the amendment be amended by adding after “broadcasting services”, the following...and that would be “excluding social media” and so on. Then it would continue that the amendment be amended by adding after “Canadian programming”, the following.... Then you would vote on that. If that's adopted, then you would vote on the amendment as amended, which would look like what Mr. Aitchison sent us.
I hope that's clear.
View Scott Simms Profile
Lib. (NL)
Before we discuss this any further, I would like to ask a question. I get to do that once in a while.
Mr. Ripley, feel free to pass this to any one of your other officials, but again, I'll keep this within the realm of the officials. My question is quite succinct. This goes to the mandate of the CBC, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
In the form of the original bill, how does Bill C-10 affect the mandate of the CBC?
Thomas Owen Ripley
View Thomas Owen Ripley Profile
Thomas Owen Ripley
2021-05-28 14:46
If I understand what's taking place, Mr. Rayes has tabled an amendment that alludes to a future amendment that introduces, I think, something along the lines of a public interest test for the corporation.
The changes with respect to CBC/Radio-Canada in Bill C-10, as it was tabled, were very limited in the sense that the government acknowledged that there were recommendations in the Yale report with respect to CBC/Radio-Canada, but that it was not including CBC/Radio-Canada within the scope of Bill C-10 for the most part and that the role and mandate of CBC/Radio-Canada would be looked at in a future phase of reform.
The only change that was made that affected CBC/Radio-Canada flows from the expansion of the CRTC's jurisdiction over online undertakings. Right now, the mandate of CBC/Radio-Canada refers specifically to radio and television. There is a limited change being made in that context to talk about broadcasting services more broadly, to reflect the fact that CBC obviously operates as CBC Gem and ICI TOU.TV, and those are online undertakings. To ensure that the CRTC would have jurisdiction over those was the only change we proposed that affects CBC/Radio-Canada in Bill C-10.
Flowing from that, Mr. Chair, indirectly of course, CBC/Radio-Canada would also be subject to the AMP regime, the administrative monetary penalty regime, that's been put in place. All broadcasters, for example CBC/Radio-Canada, would be subject to that.
Thomas Owen Ripley
View Thomas Owen Ripley Profile
Thomas Owen Ripley
2021-05-28 14:59
Perhaps I'll just start by taking a step back and reminding the committee that Bill C-10 proposes transitioning from a licence-based model to what we have called a conditions of service type of model. The bill proposes that conditions of service, which could be through orders at proposed section 9.1, regulations at proposed section 10 or proposed section 11.1, not be necessarily time limited.
To Mr. Waugh's point, which is a good one right now, we know that licence renewal is the key point when the CRTC tends to turn its magnifying glass on a particular organization and look at compliance. Bill C-10 proposes a shift from that as well, in the sense that, as the committee knows, it's proposing the introduction of an administrative monetary penalty regime. That would allow the CRTC, at any point in time, to call a broadcasting undertaking before it if there's a question of compliance and potentially subject them to an AMP if they're found not compliant. The goal is also to shift the CRTC to a more regular kind of enforcement footing as opposed to waiting for seven years before a licence is up for renewal before it looks at some of those compliance issues.
Mr. Shields, indeed the bill does apply to a broader scope of undertakings, including online undertakings, as the committee knows well. The bill allows the CRTC to amend an order of its own motion or at the request of a party at any time. Again, the position is that, once an order's in place, it's not set in stone.
From that perspective, the amendment on the table, in proposed subsection 9.1(1.1), confirms what would already be the case—that the CRTC has the ability to amend an order. As I highlighted, it's proposed subsection 9.1(1.2), though, that suggests that the CRTC would be under an obligation to renew an order for a period not exceeding seven years. It again raises the question of whether it's workable or effective to require the CRTC to look at every single order that it may have on the books on a recurring seven-year basis, as opposed to identifying the biggest impact orders in terms of those that may need to be reviewed because of a change in technology, a change in business models or those kinds of things.
I hope that helps answer your question, Mr. Shields.
View Charlie Angus Profile
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I'm speaking to my motion today to invite Mr. Steven Guilbeault, the Minister of Heritage, to come to the ethics and privacy committee to testify on the plans that are being led through the heritage department to deal with the allegations of non-consensual sexual assault videos that exist on PornHub.
At the April 12 ethics meeting, we were informed by security minister Bill Blair that the government of Mr. Trudeau will “introduce legislation to create a new regulator that will ensure online platforms remove harmful content, including depictions of child sexual exploitation and intimate images that are shared without consent” and that “Public Safety Canada and other departments are working on this proposed legislation with Canadian Heritage, which leads this effort.”
We have had no indication of what this new regulator is and I think we need clarity.
I would just step back a minute and say that this all stems from the December 2020 reports that came out of the United States on horrific abuse of children and sexual assault victims on PornHub, a company that is based in Canada. We began our study at that time to see if our laws were insufficient or if there was a problem. We asked the RCMP to come. The RCMP have made it clear that they are not moving forward with allegations against PornHub. They've talked about their being a partner. They've talked about voluntary compliance.
I received the RCMP's internal briefing documents in response to the December 2020 article, and in that document, it talks about what next steps have to be done and it mentions the leadership of the heritage department. My office asked the RCMP to send us the blacked-out information to explain why the RCMP is deferring to Mr. Guilbeault's office. My staff was told that this would breach cabinet confidence.
What that tells me is that after the December 2020 article came out in The New York Times on PornHub, this issue was discussed at the cabinet of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and a decision was made then to have Mr. Steven Guilbeault and the heritage department handle this file, rather than transferring it over to police, to the Attorney General or to public security.
I think this is really important. We cannot finish our PornHub study without knowing what exactly the government's plan is, because we have Bill C-10 right now that Mr. Guilbeault is in charge of, and I think the government shocked everybody when they decided to put user-generated content under Bill C-10. I've talked to many arts organizations that were shocked that Bill C-10 includes user-generated content. It is nothing that the artists' community wanted. They want Facebook and Google to pay their share. Where is this user-generated content coming from? Is this to address the allegations the survivors brought to us on PornHub?
If that is the case, Mr. Guilbeault needs to explain that, because I don't think you could disrespect survivors in any more of an egregious fashion than to suggest that sexual assault videos or videos of the torture of children that were brought forward to our committee are somehow considered user-generated content in Canada. What does that say to survivors? What does that say to the women of the global south who I have been meeting with, who are speaking from Nigeria, Colombia, Spain and France, talking about the sexual assault videos from their countries that are being posted on a Canadian site?
Are the Liberals telling us that they consider sexual assault and criminal acts mere content that can be handled by a regulator? Are they going to hand it off to the CRTC under Bill C-10, or are they going to create a new pornography regulator? I would like to know what that pornography regulator would be, because, again, I had excellent meetings following the debacle of our meetings with the sex workers, and Ms. Lukings provided really interesting analysis of how what we want to do is to make sure we hold corporations accountable for what's online, but we don't want to push stuff to the dark net.
If the Liberals have this idea that Mr. Guilbeault could set up some kind of regulator to tell us—I don't know—Canadian content in porn, good porn, bad porn.... Do we need a regulator or do we simply need the Liberal government to apply the laws?
We can look at the laws we have in Canada. In section 162 of the Criminal Code, it is a crime to film the private acts of individuals or people without their consent. It is a crime to circulate, to sell, to advertise or to make available the recording. We have a law. In section 163, sexual videos of crime, cruelty and violence are classified as criminal in behaviour. We heard from the survivors of non-consensual sexual assault videos that their videos were videos of crime, cruelty and violence. Section 164 gives the authorities, which would be the RCMP, the power to issue warrants to seize the recordings of voyeuristic videos of crimes as well as child pornography.
We have mandatory reporting laws. We have learned that Pornhub has not followed through on them. Pornhub has not respected the laws we have in this country.
The Attorney General doesn't seem to even think it applies, because he's not sure if this Montreal-based company is a Canadian company. If the Attorney General, who lives in Montreal, isn't sure that Pornhub is a Canadian company, even though their address is on Décarie Boulevard and everybody in Montreal who goes to work passes their office in the morning, then how are we expected to believe that the CRTC or some kind of regulator will handle this?
I think Mr. Guilbeault needs to come and explain this to us. What is the government's plan for dealing with the issues of sexual violence on Pornhub that have come to our committee? Are we going to ignore Canadian law or are we going to establish the CRTC to do this? Is this going to be Bill C-10 or...? Mr. Blair suggested that they're going to create a new regulator.
I think Mr. Guilbeault needs to come and inform us so that we can actually finish a report on what Parliament needs to do to address these disturbing allegations of brutality and non-consensual sexual assault of women, not just from Canada but from around the world. We need to be able to respond to those survivors and to the Canadian people that we've done our job. We cannot do that job without Mr. Guilbeault coming and explaining why he is the lead person appointed by the Trudeau government to address these very serious allegations.
I'd like to bring that motion forward for a vote.
View Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Profile
I'm going to keep my turn this time. I have something else to say, but I'd like to comment on the motion.
We have seven meetings left. If I understand correctly, four of them are to review reports. That leaves us three meetings.
Furthermore, we are aware that Ms. Shanahan may be putting forward a motion today.
Top of mind are the people watching us and following our proceedings. The purpose of the original motion, adopted in December, was to meet with the owners and executives of Pornhub. Naturally, once we started looking into the matter, we wanted to go deeper. Unfortunately, the committee doesn't meet five days a week or have 20 hours of meeting time a week. My biggest concern is finalizing the reports. Let's be frank: we could take longer. After all, the committee has gone over the time allotted in the past.
We have three meetings left. I'm sure my fellow members have suggestions on how we can end the session on as good of a note as we started it on. I won't go on about it, but I am quite concerned about the committee's ability to be effective, on behalf of those who are counting on us. We need to respect the purview of each committee. A committee can study an issue inside and out. As mentioned, the Standing Committee on the Status of Women took a different approach in the case of Pornhub, deciding to apply a different lens. The same is true in this case: the committee is examining Bill C-10.
I just want to be sure that the right work is being done at the right place.
That is my first concern.
View Scott Simms Profile
Lib. (NL)
I call this meeting to order.
Welcome to meeting number 36 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.
Pursuant to the order of reference of February 16 and the motion adopted by the committee on Monday, May 10, the committee resumes consideration of Bill C-10, an act to amend the Broadcasting Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other acts.
As I mentioned earlier, when we left we were with G-11.1.
I see there is a great deal of interest on the board. There are hands up.
Ms. Dabrusin, go ahead, please.
View Scott Simms Profile
Lib. (NL)
Ms. Dabrusin, I'm sorry, but just before you finish, I didn't have a chance to say, for all those watching on television or the Internet through our web page, that we are doing clause-by-clause on Bill C-10. I forgot to mention that this is clause-by-clause.
I'm sorry for the interruption, Ms. Dabrusin. Carry on, please.
View Scott Simms Profile
Lib. (NL)
Thank you, Mr. Rayes.
Since G-11.1 is now moved, as Ms. Dabrusin pointed out, we are in the middle of that debate. If you wish to move a motion—I'm assuming it's about Bill C-10—that certainly falls within the purview of the committee to examine, but we have to dispense with what's on the table right now. That would be G-11.1, as far as the amendment is concerned.
In saying that, would you like to talk about G-11.1?
View Martin Champoux Profile
View Martin Champoux Profile
2021-05-19 14:43
I think that says it all, Mr. Chair.
Paragraph 9.1(1)(i.1), as proposed in the amendment, talks about “Canadian creators of programs”. However, that is not a term generally used in the texts we are now reviewing under Bill C-10. It is rather a matter of Canadian content, francophone content or programs, or even of human, creative and other resources. So I felt that the term “Canadian creators of programs” does not refer to something very specific. However, the term “Canadian programs” does refer to what we want to make discoverable for users, in the context of the Canadian broadcasting system. That is my explanation for this part of the subamendment.
As for the second part, the aim is to add wording to reassure people who may be concerned about the act being interpreted so as to infringe on freedom of expression. So this notion is added to the part on interpretation, to encourage the CRTC not to lose sight of needing to make its decisions while keeping in mind that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms contains a fundamental principle, that of the freedom of expression enjoyed by Canadians. As such, this is about the freedom of expression enjoyed by users of social media services provided by online undertakings.
It is pretty simple and clear.
View Alain Rayes Profile
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Ripley, we are bombarding you with questions, but I think they are quite relevant.
At first sight, when Mr. Champoux proposed the first part of his subamendment, its aim was to replace “Canadian creators of programs” with “Canadian programs”, and I saw this as a simple superficial amendment. However, I have listened to your comments, especially those in response to Ms. Harder's questions. The further we get, the more she is showing her knowledge on the topic, and the more I am finding that the amendment is not just a superficial one. It is rather an important amendment. I am happy Mr. Champoux agreed to divide his subamendment in two, so that we can vote.
I would like you to clarify something for me.
At first, when Bill C-10 was introduced, the objective was for the activities of digital broadcasters, such as Netflix, Disney+ and Spotify, to be regulated in a fair manner compared with the activities of our so–called traditional broadcasters, such as TVA, CBC, CTV and Global. The basis of the bill is very technical; we can see that in all the proposed amendments, the scope of this issue and the reactions to it around the country.
To ensure that I understand properly, I would like you to explain something to me, as this will impact my response to this subamendment. As you pointed out, everything we are trying to do is related to the initially proposed section 4.1. The government is trying to integrate elements to compensate for the shortcomings stemming from this section's deletion. The rift occurred when social media were brought into the discussion. In the beginning, it was a matter of digital broadcasters like Netflix, which is not a social network such as Facebook or TikTok. Now, YouTube, TikTok and all social networks have been integrated as potential broadcasters.
As you pointed out so well, the bill provides no definition of social media. You say that the CRTC will define what constitutes a social medium and what constitutes a Canadian program. I think we all agree on what a Canadian program is when it comes to traditional broadcasters. Those rules have been in place for a long time. Now, the Internet has joined the conversation. For me, Netflix is on the Internet. However, a social network is another type of platform. We always talk about the same social networks we, the old generation, are familiar with; I will put all of us into the old generation category. My children, who are 19, 23 and 25 years old, use other social networks that I dare not even mention, as I may get the name wrong. The youth are using them by the millions around the world.
I am honestly a bit shaken today, and I would like you to clarify this for me. Without a definition, we are all relying on the CRTC. Unless I am mistaken, the corporation has nine months following the passing of Bill C-10 to set out clear rules. Is that right? Do I understand the situation correctly or am I completely off course? If so, tell me, and I will accept it with humility.
View Alain Rayes Profile
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Ripley, as we move forward, new questions come to mind. I'm sorry for dragging out the discussion, Mr. Champoux, but I find that I'm learning almost more today than I've learned since the start of this study.
If we don't pass Mr. Champoux's subamendment and we go back to the government's original amendment, which talks about “the discoverability of Canadian creators of programs,” we won't know what constitutes a Canadian creator. It could be anyone. As you confirmed, Mr. Ripley, it isn't defined. The CRTC will have to define it. There's no mention of professional Canadian creators, for example. If need be, I could create my own program on social media. I'm thinking of a young Quebecker who created his own program, 7 jours sur Terre, and who is followed by thousands of people. He even has his own subscription system. This has become a side gig for him, or maybe it's his main job. I have no idea. Thousands of people follow him in real time.
Since the original proposed section 4.1 was removed from the bill three weeks ago, the government has been telling us that users aren't affected by Bill C-10, even without that section. Over the course of our discussion, questions have been coming to mind. I'm thinking as I'm talking to you. I can see that, in proposed paragraph 9.1(1)(i.1), the government is asking for, “in relation to online undertakings that provide a social media service, the discoverability of Canadian creators of programs.” So, indirectly, if a Canadian were to create their own program on social media for fun, the CRTC would be asked to determine whether to ensure the discoverability of that program and, if so, to establish how to do this. Is that right?
For three weeks now, the minister has been telling everyone that users aren't affected by this bill after the removal of proposed section 4.1. However, I can see the intention to reinstate a provision in the bill that could directly affect users. In any event, I'm raising the issue.
Do I understand this properly?
View Martin Champoux Profile
View Martin Champoux Profile
2021-05-19 15:50
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
My second subamendment concerns paragraph (b) of amendment G-11.1, which proposes to amend clause 7 of Bill C-10 by adding subsection 9.1(3.1) after line 10 on page 8. My subamendment seeks to amend the amendment by adding the following to the end of the proposed text:
Interpretation (3.2) For greater certainty, paragraph (1)(i.1) shall be construed and applied in a manner that is consistent with the freedom of expression enjoyed by users of social media services provided by online undertakings.
View Alain Rayes Profile
It's dated May 11, 2021. I can't tell you the exact number, but it's the one that calls for clause 7 of Bill C-10 to be amended by adding after line 19 on page 8—
View Alain Rayes Profile
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
The amendment moves that clause 7 of Bill C-10 be amended by adding after line 19 on page 8 the following:
9.2 This Act does not apply in respect of
(a) programs that are uploaded to an online undertaking that provides a social media service by a user of the service—who is not the provider of the service or the provider's affiliate, or the agent or mandatary of either of them—for transmission or retransmission over the Internet and reception by other users of the service; and
(b) online undertakings whose broadcasting consists only of such programs.
This amendment is being introduced in an effort to work with everyone, given what happened after the removal of proposed section 4.1.
My colleague, Mr. Champoux, has asked this question several times. The minister even told us that the committee was responsible for these decisions. We would like to address the situation and dispel all lingering concerns by proposing this amendment, which applies to the place in the bill that we're studying today.
We've heard from several experts. For the past three weeks, our work has been stalled because of the unwillingness of the two ministers. Actually, I shouldn't say that. Rather, the government members on the committee didn't want the ministers to appear from the beginning. In the end, everything worked out over time. I want to acknowledge that and thank everyone.
I want to propose this amendment so that we can break the deadlock in relation to the issue of freedom of expression and the protection of content. That's why this amendment is so important today.
I hope that all my colleagues will see the value in this. I'll end on that note and let them discuss the matter. When I spoke earlier about the second subamendment proposed by Mr. Champoux, I said that, as the saying goes, you can't be too careful. I think that it would be in our interest to pass the amendment. This would show the government's willingness to protect freedom of expression and to address the current concerns of a number of people across the country.
View Peter Fragiskatos Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Chair.
I'll have to go back to the record afterwards. I think I heard Ms. Jansen say that she may not be voting in favour of the budget, which stunned me a great deal. I think we're all very surprised by that.
I would also point Ms. Jansen and Conservative colleagues, if they wish to take a look, to the most recent data, which has regularly for the past several weeks put Canada in the very top tier—either first some days, second other days, third other days, but no worse than third—in the G20 for vaccinations per day being administered.
It's really something that I think needs to be corrected here. Yes, we can do better, of course, but we're doing extremely well right now. The effect of that rhetoric, Chair, is that it generates a sense of concern and I would say even fear that is not well placed. If we're going to be seized with issues at this committee, let's focus on the facts rather than contribute to these myths that opposition colleagues have been peddling recently.
It's a different issue altogether, but we've seen what has happened with Bill C-10, concerning which Facebook has been alive and well with conspiracy theories about censorship in recent weeks, and we all know they're not true.
I will, however, focus on the issue at hand here, Chair. I just wanted to put those points of view on the record.
Mr. Telles, thank you very much for representing youth here today. Thank you very much for being an advocate.
Ms. Dzerowicz took my question, unfortunately, which was to ask you about student debt. It was great to see that there were a number of measures put in place in budget 2021 to help students with debt. That matters a lot for me, because prior to taking on the role of a member of Parliament, I taught at Western for a number of years, where I saw students really impacted in such negative ways by student debt.
What I also saw was the mental health challenges that young people faced. I think we all know—we've heard the stories in our own communities—about the way the pandemic has exacerbated that challenge for young people. Could you speak to that? I know the budget provides a very sizable investment for mental health in this country and for improved services.
View Scott Simms Profile
Lib. (NL)
Welcome back, everybody. Once again, just 22 hours later, here we sit once more with Bill C-10.
Today, we're doing witness testimony. With us today we have both ministers and officials. I'm just going to briefly introduce them for you.
We have the Hon. Steven Guilbeault, who is the Minister of Canadian Heritage and who has been here before.
We also have the Hon. David Lametti, the Minister of Justice.
From the Department of Justice, we have Nathalie Drouin, the deputy minister of justice and deputy attorney general of Canada; Sarah Geh, director general, human rights law section; and Michael Himsl, legal counsel.
Once again, and no strangers to us now by any means, from the Department of Canadian Heritage we have Thomas Owen Ripley, director general, and Drew Olsen, senior director.
We have an hour and perhaps a bit. I know we have an hour with the minister, but, Minister, bear with us. Sometimes we tend to go five minutes over. I say that with trepidation, but you can try to hold us to it.
That being said, we usually do four questions in the opening round and four questions in the second round. I'm hoping to accomplish that. If we have time left, we can do more. That would give an extra one spot for the Conservatives and then the Liberals. In the meantime, I'm going to try to hold to these eight speaking spots.
Mr. Guilbeault, you're not doing an opening statement, but we understand Mr. Lametti is.
Minister Lametti, welcome to the committee. You have up to 10 minutes. The floor is yours, sir.
View David Lametti Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. Good afternoon.
I wish to acknowledge that I'm speaking to you today from Ottawa on the traditional territory of the Algonquin people.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, for the invitation to appear before you to discuss the charter statement that was tabled for Bill C-10, as well as the explanatory document requested for the proposed amendments now before the committee.
As you can see, I'm appearing alongside Minister Guilbeault, who is the minister responsible for Bill C-10. I am accompanied by officials from my department.
I want to begin by discussing the duty I have under the law, as Minister of Justice, to prepare statements regarding the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms for government bills introduced in the House of Commons.
I will discuss the purpose of charter statements and provide the context, including their history. I will explain what charter statements are meant to do and not do.
I will also gladly speak to the charter statement tabled in relation to Bill C-10, as well as the explanatory document provided to the committee concerning the potential effects of the proposed amendments on freedom of expression.
I should note at the outset that it is not my role as Minister of Justice and Attorney General to give legal advice to parliamentary committees. You have access to your own legal counsel and independent witnesses.
As you are aware, however, I do have obligations under the Department of Justice Act in terms of reviewing proposed government bills for inconsistency with the charter and preparing charter statements for government bills. This obligation was created by our government to be open and transparent with Canadians about the charter considerations of our legislation.
These two sets of obligations—examining bills and preparing charter statements—are both focused on the bill as tabled.
Section 4.2 of the Department of Justice Act requires the Minister of Justice to ensure that a charter statement is tabled in the House of Commons for every government bill. That obligation came into force in December 2019.
Examining bills for potential inconsistency with the charter, as set out in section 4.1, is one of my most important responsibilities. Rest assured that I also take very seriously the obligation to ensure charter statements are tabled in the House, as set out in section 4.2.
Now I will turn to the purpose of charter statements.
Charter statements are intended to inform parliamentary and public debate on a government bill. They foster transparency regarding the effects of a government bill on the fundamental values protected by the charter. They provide parliamentarians with additional information to further inform the important legislative debates they have on behalf of Canadians. Charter statements also provide Canadians with additional information to help them participate in these debates through their elected representatives.
The obligation to table charter statements is a testament to our government's commitment to respect and uphold the charter, as an integral part of the country's good governance.
We can never abdicate our responsibility as a government to ensure that our decisions—including those reflected in the reform of an act—respect our fundamental rights and freedoms. Section 4.2 of the Department of Justice Act strengthens the obligation this government and future governments have to respect this most basic of requirements.
I would like to take a few moments to explain the content of charter statements. In keeping with their purpose, charter statements are drafted at a high level. They set out in an accessible way the potential effects a bill may have on the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the charter. Charter statements also explain considerations that support the constitutionality of a bill.
In our discussion of the charter, it is also important to stress that, when Parliament legislates, it may have an effect on charter rights and freedoms. This may include limiting people's enjoyment or exercise when it is in the broader public interest to do so. This is entirely legitimate. The rights and freedoms guaranteed in the charter are not absolute, but rather subject to reasonable limits, as long as those limits can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.
This means that, when identifying the potential effect of a bill that could limit a right or a freedom, it may also be necessary to consider whether the limit is reasonable and justified. A charter statement may therefore outline considerations relevant to the potential justifiability of a bill.
The fact that charter rights and freedoms can be limited, however, is not a licence to violate them. Rather, it is a reminder that any legislative limits to rights and freedoms must be carefully considered in the context of the shared values of Canada's unique, free and democratic society.
As parliamentarians, it is our responsibility to discuss and debate potential effects on charter guarantees. We exercise our judgment on behalf of Canadians as to whether proposed legislation strikes the right balance between rights and freedoms and the broader public interest. Charter statements are one more source of information to add to our deliberations.
I would also like to take a moment to explain what a charter statement is not.
A charter statement is not a legal opinion. It does not provide a comprehensive analysis of the constitutionality of a bill.
As I mentioned, a charter statement provides Parliament and the public with legal information relating to the possible effects of a bill on the rights guaranteed by the charter and to the considerations that support the consistency of the bill with the charter.
As we all know, bills often change when they are being considered by Parliament. A charter statement reflects the bill at the time it was introduced by the government in the House of Commons. Section 4.2 of the Department of Justice Act does not require that charter statements be updated as a bill progresses through Parliament.
Keeping that in mind, I will now turn to the proposed amendments to Bill C-10 in relation to social media, which are before the committee.
My fellow minister Mr. Guilbeault talked about the scope of the proposed amendments. He highlighted the key objectives underlying the amendments and discussed their intended effects on social media services and users.
In short, the proposed amendments are intended to empower the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to regulate a social media service in respect of programs uploaded by its unaffiliated users, strictly in relation to the following: payment of regulatory charges, such as to support the creation of Canadian programming; discoverability of Canadian creators; registration of the service; provision of information; and auditing of records.
In keeping with my obligations under the Department of Justice Act, I tabled a charter statement for Bill C-10 in the House of Commons on November 18, 2020. The charter statement for Bill C-10 identifies the rights and freedoms that may potentially be engaged by the bill, and relevant considerations that support the bill's consistency with the charter.
In considering the committee's recent discussions focusing on the impacts of the proposed amendments on social media, I understand there has been extensive debate on freedom of expression.
We have prepared and shared with you an explanatory document that examines the amendments, and discusses their potential effect on the right to freedom of expression in section 2(b) of the charter. I'm confident that these considerations support the charter consistency of the bill, and that they remain as outlined in the charter statement. It is our position that the bill, as tabled, and these proposed amendments are consistent with the charter.
As the charter statement indicates, the bill's regulatory requirements have the potential to engage freedom of expression in section 2(b) of the charter. The following considerations support the continued consistency of the proposed regulatory requirements of section 2(b).
By virtue of clause 1, which would remain in the bill, unaffiliated users of social media services would not be subject to broadcasting regulation in respect of the programs they post. What remains is an updating of the CRTC's regulatory powers, and providing it with new powers applicable to online service. The bill maintains the CRTC's role and flexibility at determining what, if any, regulatory requirements to impose on broadcasting undertakings.
Regarding the proposal to give the CRTC new limited powers to regulate an online undertaking that provides the social media service in respect of programs posted by unaffiliated users, the relevant charter considerations include the CRTC's discretionary role and flexibility.
The proposed narrowing of the CRTC's discretionary powers to regulate its social media service in respect of programs posted by unaffiliated users, to only discrete members that I have mentioned, is an additional consideration. The CRTC is subject to the charter, and must exercise any discretionary powers it has in a manner that is consistent with the charter.
The act states that it must be interpreted and applied in a manner consistent with freedom of expression. The CRTC's decisions on matters of law or jurisdiction are subject to review by the Federal Court of Appeal.
In my view, the relevant considerations that are set out in the charter statement remain valid. These considerations are not impacted by the proposed amendments.
Once again, thank you for the opportunity to address the committee today.
I am at your disposal to answer questions.
View Rachael Harder Profile
Thank you.
Minister, in the charter statement for BillC-10, clause 3, proposed section 4.1 is cited as grounds for the bill being in compliance with the charter. We know that section was removed. Experts in the industry now say that the removal of section 4.1 takes away the safeguards that were imperative to protect user-generated content.
Do you agree with that?
View Rachael Harder Profile
I have a question with regard to the charter—as to whether or not section 2(b) of the charter is actually held up by this bill—so let me explain further.
If I go to an art exhibition owned by a private individual, I expect to walk in and the art to be curated for me. Some artists are going to be given the front room; other artists are going to be given a back room. The curators are going to choose which paintings come first and which are toward, maybe, the end of the exhibition. That curation is expected because I'm going into a private gallery, and they've offered to do that for me. At the same time, however, if the government was to come in and dictate to that gallery how the art should be hung, where it should be hung or which artist should be promoted, that is censorship in its finest. The same thing is happening on our social media platforms with Bill C-10.
How does that fit within section 2(b) of the charter: to have what we post online carefully curated and censored by a government arm, the CRTC?
View David Lametti Profile
Lib. (QC)
As I mentioned in my opening statement, both the charter statement and the explanatory document looked at the various provisions of Bill C-10 and found that section 2(b) might be engaged, but there were various reasons given—which I outlined in my opening—to conclude that this was in conformity with section 2(b) of the charter.
Again, if there's a substantive application question, I will turn it over to Minister Guilbeault.
View David Lametti Profile
Lib. (QC)
The legal obligation with respect to charter statements, according to section 4.2 of the Department of Justice Act, is that they be tabled around the time that the bill is tabled in the House of Commons. At that point, we put it up on the website. As the committee requested a separate assessment, we produced an explanatory document based on the amendments to C-10, and we gave it to the committee because it was the committee that requested it.
It's not the charter statement that was originally tabled, so there was no need to list it on the Department of Justice website.
View David Lametti Profile
Lib. (QC)
I'd like to thank the honourable member for his question.
Although it's an important question, I must say that I am here to explain the purpose of charter statements and to discuss the explanatory document we provided.
I am not here to give lessons on the charter and certainly not legal opinions. Answering a hypothetical question could lead me into very dangerous territory, as justice minister.
If you have any questions about Bill C-10, I will defer to my colleague Mr. Guilbeault.
View Martin Champoux Profile
View Martin Champoux Profile
2021-05-18 15:05
I have a question for you. I'm not necessarily looking for a legal opinion, but I would like to draw on your expertise as a lawmaker.
Once Parliament passes a bill, as may soon be the case with Bill C-10, and once that bill comes into force, can people or groups of people turn to the Federal Court or another court to challenge specific sections of the legislation they find worrisome or unconstitutional? I'm thinking of provisions they feel jeopardize their freedom of expression.
View David Lametti Profile
Lib. (QC)
That is always the case. In fact, that's one of the reasons why I don't give legal opinions publicly, either before committees or in the House.
As I have repeatedly said, if you have specific questions about the scope of Bill C-10, I will defer to my colleague Mr. Guilbeault.
View Martin Champoux Profile
View Martin Champoux Profile
2021-05-18 15:06
No, the question was not directly related to Bill C-10, Mr. Minister. It could have been about any bill.
However, this is a good example. The bill before us is more complex than just the matter of freedom of expression. I am wondering whether, after the bill is passed, people will still have an opportunity to challenge parts of it if they want to, if they are concerned or uncomfortable.
This is simply a question about procedures and how the justice system works.
View Tim Louis Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you very much, Chair, and I thank Ministers Lametti and Guilbeault for being here. I appreciate that and also I want to thank the representatives from justice and heritage for being here in this important conversation.
We've heard lots of testimony already and numerous arts organizations have come out in support of Bill C-10. Our artists are among the most fierce defenders of free speech in our society. They understand that updating this Broadcasting Act in no way infringes on the freedom of expression nor does it represent any censorship of the Internet.
Minister Lametti, I would like to hear from you. Can you explain the balanced approach that this bill takes in supporting our arts and defending free speech? Specifically, the charter statement says, “In making regulatory decisions, the [CRTC] must proportionately balance the objectives of the act with protection of freedom of expression in light of the facts and circumstances.”
Can you explain exactly what you meant by that? Is it your conclusion that the original import of the charter statement still applies and remains true?
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair and Ms. Dabrusin.
Earlier on in one of her questions, Ms. McPherson said that because the bill had around a hundred amendments, it was a flawed bill. That's a false premise. I know that, just like me, she's a new MP, so we're not used to this. It's not uncommon for bills to have 200 amendments. Going back in the previous Parliament, I can recall Bill C-69, which I followed closely in my previous career, had around 200 amendments. There's nothing extraordinary about that. In fact, a hundred may not be so much after all.
She pointed out that we've heard about experts who have raised concerns. I think just yesterday this committee heard from a number of experts who have actually clearly said that they thought there were no issues regarding freedom of speech. We've heard from a previous director of the CRTC, Janet Yale, and from a law professor from the Université de Montréal, Pierre Trudel.
I could quote this because I don't think it has been done in this committee and I think it is important. It's in French, so I'll switch to French. It's the unanimous resolution from the National Assembly.
The motion recognizes that Bill C-10 “constitutes a significant step in protecting and promoting Quebec culture and..., therefore, [the National Assembly of Quebec] affirms its support for the measures proposed by the bill.”
I think Bill C-10 actually has a lot of support across this country given the benefit it will bring to our artists as well as to the broadcasting ecosystem.
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
I thank my colleague for his question.
I think we have done everything the committee has asked of us. Every time the committee has asked me, I have come to testify, even twice in the last two weeks. The committee asked for clarification of the original charter statement; that was submitted last week. My colleague the Minister of Justice is here with me today. We take this bill very seriously, as I think does the entire Quebec and Canadian arts community. You may have seen the petition launched by the Union des artistes and signed by Yvon Deschamps, Claude Legault and Ariane Moffatt, among others. I could talk about the letter published in the Toronto Star last week and signed by the great international artist Loreena McKennitt.
I could also talk about the unions. Again today, the Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec issued a press release in support of Bill C-10. There is also the Confederation of National Trade Unions, and even Unifor, the largest union in Canada.
View Scott Simms Profile
Lib. (NL)
Thank you, Ms. McPherson.
Folks, that brings us to the end of this part. This is the witness testimony that we brought here today.
We want to thank both ministers for being here. We want to thank the officials who accompanied them for being here as well.
Is there any further discussion at this point about what we have heard?
I see none, other than Minister Lametti waving goodbye to us.
As you saw in the notice, tomorrow we're going to resume clause-by-clause on Bill C-10. I'm looking for input here. We're good to go, as the motion put forward by Mr. Housefather has been satisfied. Tomorrow we will proceed. We're going to be starting with proposed amendment G-11.1.
Go ahead, Monsieur Rayes.
View Alain Rayes Profile
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I am wondering about something and I would like to share it with everyone.
Before me, I have the motion that Mr. Housefather introduced. The first point asks the Minister of Justice “to provide a revised Charter Statement on Bill C-10.”
The minister clarified in his speech and repeatedly in his responses to questions from the Conservatives and members of other parties that this was not a revised statement from his November 18 document, but rather an explanatory document.
I would like to know whether all members of the committee really understood what the minister said. If so, I would direct your attention to the third point of the motion, which is that the committee suspend clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-10 until the completion of both points 1 and 2.
I am wondering. I don't know what our decision will be, but I need to have some good discussions with my colleagues on my side.
I would like to hear from the other members of the committee on this issue.
View Martin Champoux Profile
View Martin Champoux Profile
2021-05-18 15:39
Yes, it's me again, Mr. Chair.
I would like to remind you that I asked a few questions earlier about possible remedies after a bill has been passed. Minister Lametti said that, if there are still concerns about certain sections of the legislation after a bill is passed, Canadians, individuals or groups always have a process through which to challenge its validity or constitutionality.
In the last few days, the leader of the Conservative Party has been very clear that, if elected to power, he would repeal this piece of legislation. It is understandable then that our Conservative colleagues' support for Bill C-10 is non-existent.
However, since the beginning of the work, although they do not support the bill, the Conservatives have always been willing to not interrupt, block or slow down the work, and I am absolutely grateful to them for that. Moreover, despite their opposition to the bill, their input has often been very constructive.
We stopped our study for several meetings when it would have been very important for the cultural industry and the community to move forward. We have repeatedly expressed the urgency of this bill for the cultural industry. I sincerely believe that the questions have been well answered and I am quite convinced that we will never reach a consensus. We will not agree, but, as they say,
“let's agree to disagree”,
and move on with the job we have to do. There will always be remedies available afterwards, if you feel that any of the sections of this piece of legislation actually infringe on freedom of expression.
The most important thing we have to do right now is to do our best to improve this bill and send it back to the House of Commons. We need to do this for the cultural industry, which is watching us, listening to us and pleading with us to put an end to this stalemate and move forward with the work. I think it's crucial for that industry. We must get out of this impasse.
Thank you.
View Scott Simms Profile
Lib. (NL)
I call the meeting to order.
Hello, everyone, and welcome back.
This is our 34th meeting of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.
We are in the midst of doing clause-by-clause study of Bill C-10. As you know, of course, we took a little bit of a break to go on to other activities, including a motion that was passed to allow guests to come in and to also receive a document from the Department of Justice.
We also passed a motion to invite the Minister of Justice. Once again, I'd like to bring to everybody's attention—you probably know by now, through social media—that we did receive confirmation that Mr. Lametti will attend the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage tomorrow, May 18, at 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time, for one hour, alongside the deputy minister and the other officials who were present last Friday.
Minister Guilbeault will also be attending. We didn't extend the invitation to him, but I didn't think you would mind if he tagged along and was involved in the proceedings as well. Nevertheless, if you do have a problem with that, you can simply not ask him a question, I guess. Perhaps that's how it goes.
That's for tomorrow. As you've just read, he's coming in for an hour. I want you to think about this for just a few moments, and we can discuss this later. Both ministers will be in, and we have what was required from the Department of Justice, so once that is complete, we can start clause-by-clause study again right afterward. That could be as soon as the second hour tomorrow or on Wednesday, as we have another meeting then. I will let you think about that for a while, and we can discuss it again later.
That said, the other part of the motion was to invite an expert panel, the membership to be based on suggestions from each of the parties represented officially on the Standing Committee of Canadian Heritage.
We have, suggested from the Liberal caucus, Ms. Janet Yale. If you remember, she is from the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel. She is the chair of it.
Welcome, Ms. Yale.
Also, from the Conservatives, we're welcoming back Dr. Michael Geist, who is the Canada research chair in Internet and e-commerce law in the faculty of law at the University of Ottawa.
From the Bloc Québécois, we have Mr. Pierre Trudel, professor, public law research centre at the Université de Montréal.
Welcome back as well.
Finally, from the NDP, from the Canadian Independent Music Association and by no means a stranger to this committee, as he was a former member of this committee not too long ago—I was sitting next to him, and I don't want to give my age as well as his—we welcome the president and chief executive officer, Andrew Cash.
You know how this goes. We're going to start this right away. We're not going to break; we're going to do a full two hours, if you wish. There will be lots of time for questioning, but I assume everybody's going to want a bio-break in there somewhere. With your permission, I will find a spot in approximately one hour from now to take that break, and then we'll come back to resume.
Let us first start out with Ms. Yale. Of course, these are opening remarks. You can go up to five minutes, but we ask that you not go beyond five minutes for the sake of our committee.
Ms. Yale, the floor is yours.
Janet Yale
View Janet Yale Profile
Janet Yale
2021-05-17 14:35
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you all for the invitation to be here today. My panel colleague Pierre Trudel and I are very pleased to provide our perspective on Bill C-10.
We endorse the federal government's efforts to update the legislative framework governing the broadcasting system to include both media streaming services and sharing platforms. This approach is consistent with our report, which recognized the realities of a borderless online world in which Canadians will seek to access media content based on personal interest, irrespective of platform or technology.
Bill C-10 would ensure that these new online streaming services, including Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime, as well as sharing platforms like YouTube, are required to make an appropriate contribution to Canadian cultural content. These online services derive significant revenues from Canadian audiences from both advertising and subscription revenues, yet face no obligation to contribute. To imagine that in 2021 we would permit these platforms to make money from Canadian audiences, Canadian consumers and Canadian creativity without any corresponding contribution defies logic, particularly when our system imposes obligations on traditional broadcasters that are now much smaller, less powerful and less prosperous.
In our report, we recommended, as a matter of competitive fairness, that online undertakings be included in updated broadcasting legislation. Our report also made it clear that these regulatory obligations should be restricted to the platforms—that is, if we use the language of the law, to undertakings. Individual creators should remain untouched by regulation, and that is exactly what Bill C-10 proposes.
Let me say it again: Bill C-10 imposes regulatory burdens and the obligation to contribute to Canada's creators only on the undertakings such as the big streaming and sharing platforms, not on individual creators.
I will put it another way. Programs consist of audio and audiovisual content. TV shows, songs, podcasts, postings and that programming—all those programs—exist beyond regulation and will remain beyond regulation. Individuals who create content, whether amateur or professional, and audiences large and small are not affected by Bill C-10 when they upload their programming, share it or even sell it to a streaming service. No one is going to police that content, tell them what they can say or compel them to pay dues.
What Bill C-10 does require—and, from my perspective, thank goodness we are finally taking this step—is that the undertakings—the YouTubes, Disney-pluses and Netflixes of the world that share that content and make money from distributing content—must operate by a set of rules and contribute some amount of the revenues they are harvesting from Canadians to the production of Canadian content.
Finally, to those who argue that Bill C-10 fails to protect user-generated content, we say that is just wrong. Proposed section 2.1 specifically provides that exemption already. New amendments that have been tabled make this exclusion even clearer. Therefore, to persist in creating this illusory scare against freedom of expression is either to misunderstand the legislation, in my view, or to intentionally seek to mislead people for some other purpose.
I will finish by saying this: Legislation, of course, is complex, and broadcasting policy and its regulation can be very technical. Devils do lurk in details, and that is why the scrutiny of this committee is so important. However, what's at stake here isn't hard to understand: We need to make provision for the reality of these immense and hugely powerful online platforms. We need to ensure that they give to, not just take from, Canadian creators and Canadian audiences. We need to update a broadcasting framework that was last amended before the world was even online. We need what is set out in Bill C-10, with all its provisions and all its protections. We urge the government to pass this legislation as quickly as possible.
Thank you.
Michael Geist
View Michael Geist Profile
Michael Geist
2021-05-17 14:39
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
As you know, my name is Michael Geist. I appear in a personal capacity, representing only my own views. I always start with that statement, but it feels particularly necessary in this instance, given the misinformation and conspiracy theories that some have floated and that Minister Guilbeault has disappointingly retweeted.
As I am sure you are aware, I have been quite critical of Bill C-10. I would like to reiterate that criticism of the bill is not criticism of public support for culture or of regulation of technology companies. I think public support for culture is needed, and I think there are ways to ensure money for creator programs this year and not in five years, as in this bill.
Further, I am puzzled and discouraged by the lack of interest in Bill C-11, which would move toward modernizing Canada’s privacy rules to help address concerns about how these companies collect and use our data. The bill would also mandate algorithmic transparency, which is much needed and far different from government-mandated algorithmic outcomes.
I’ll confine my opening remarks to the charter-related questions and widespread concerns about the regulation of user-generated content, but would welcome questions on any aspect of the bill.
There is simply no debating that following the removal of proposed section 4.1, the bill now applies to user-generated content, since all audiovisual content is treated as a program under the act. You have heard experts say that and department officials say that. The attempts to deflect from that simple reality by pointing to proposed section 2.1 to argue that users are not regulated is deceptive and does not speak to the issue of regulating the content of users.
I will speak to the freedom of expression implications in a moment, but I want to pause to note that no one, literally no other country, uses broadcast regulation to regulate user-generated content in this way. There are good reasons that all other countries reject this approach. It is not that they don’t love their creators and want to avoid regulating Internet companies; it is that regulating user-generated content in this manner is entirely unworkable, a risk to net neutrality and a threat to freedom of expression. For example, the European Union, which is not shy about regulation, distinguishes between streaming services such as Netflix and video-sharing services such as TikTok or YouTube, with no equivalent regulations such as those found in Bill C-10 for user-generated content.
From a charter perspective, the statement issued by the Department of Justice last week simply does not contain analysis or discussion about how the regulation of user-generated content as a program intersects with the charter. There is similarly no discussion about whether this might constitute a violation that could be justified, no discussion on the implications of deprioritizing speech, no discussion on the use of terms such as “social media service” that are not even defined in the bill, and no discussion of the implementation issues that could require Canadians to disclose personal location-based information in order to comply with the new, ill-defined requirements.
In my view, the prioritization or deprioritization of speech by the government through the CRTC necessarily implicates freedom of expression. The charter statement should have acknowledged this reality and grappled with the question of whether it is saved by section 1. I do not believe it is.
First, the bill as drafted, with section 4.1 in it, was the attempt to minimally impair those speech rights. With it removed, the bill no longer does so.
Second, the discoverability policy objective is not enough to save the impairment of free speech rights. There is no evidence that there is a discoverability problem with user-generated content.
Ms. Yale’s panel, which notably appears to have lost its unanimity, recommended discoverability but cited no relevant evidence to support claims that there is an issue with user-generated content.
Third, the objective of making YouTube pay some additional amount to support music creation is not enough to save the impairment of free speech rights either. This isn’t about compensation, because the works are already licensed. This is about paying some additional fees, given concerns that section 4.1 would have broadly exempted YouTube. I am not convinced that was the case, as services such as YouTube Music Premium might well have been captured. I am not alone on that. Canadian Heritage officials thought so too in a memo they wrote to the minister. In fact, it was such a non-issue that Mr. Cash’s organization did not even specifically cite the provision or raise the issue in the brief that it submitted to this committee.
I find it remarkable that the minister and the charter statement effectively tell Canadians that they should trust the CRTC to appropriately address free speech rights but are unwilling to do the same with respect to how section 4.1 would be interpreted.
Let me conclude by noting that if a choice must be made between some additional payments by a streaming service and regulating the free speech rights of Canadians, I would have thought that standing behind freedom of expression would be an easy choice to make, and I have been genuinely shaken to find that my government thinks otherwise.
I look forward to your questions.
Pierre Trudel
View Pierre Trudel Profile
Pierre Trudel
2021-05-17 14:44
Mr. Chair and members of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, good afternoon.
I'm a law professor, and I've been teaching the Broadcasting Act since 1979. I was the research director of the Caplan-Sauvageau committee, which produced the 1991 Broadcasting Act. As my colleague Janet Yale pointed out, I was involved in the work of the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel.
As noted in the notice from the Department of Justice, which was tabled a few days ago, Bill C-10, amends the Broadcasting Act, which does not authorize measures to be taken against individuals with respect to the content they create and decide to put online. Above all, the act already clearly provides that all measures put in place to regulate broadcasting activities must respect freedom of expression.
Moreover, the Broadcasting Act has never authorized the CRTC to censor specific content. The CRTC's entire practice over the past 50 years is a testament to that. Furthermore, the Broadcasting Act requires that the CRTC refrain from regulating broadcasting in a manner that violates freedom of expression. It's hard to imagine a broader exclusion than that. It is an exclusion that requires a prohibition on interpreting the act in a way that empowers the CRTC to take action and create regulations or orders that violate freedom of expression.
In addition, as you know, the act provides that the CRTC shall refrain from regulating any activity that does not have a demonstrable impact on the achievement of Canadian broadcasting policy. In fact, the Broadcasting Act is enabling legislation. There are no specifics in the act. It is enabling legislation that empowers the CRTC to put in place rules adapted to the circumstances of each company so that they organize their activities in a way that contributes to the achievement of Canadian broadcasting policy objectives, as set out in section 3 of the act.
Therefore, Bill C-10 does not need to expand exclusions for any type of content. Rather, it is a recognition that Bill C-10 already excludes measures that could be suspected of infringing on freedom of expression and ensures that the Broadcasting Act applies to all companies that transmit programming, including on the Internet, which is the primary purpose of Bill C-10.
With regard to these online companies that determine content and that, it's important to remember, already regulate content that is offered to individuals through processes based on algorithms or artificial intelligence technologies, Bill C-10 strengthens the guarantees of fundamental rights for all Canadians. It empowers the CRTC to compel companies to provide information on the logic behind these algorithmic devices, which does not currently exist. It enables the CRTC to put measures in place to ensure that Canadians are offered programming that reflects the principles, values and objectives set out in section 3 of the Broadcasting Act.
Nothing in the Broadcasting Act as it is proposed to be amended would allow the CRTC to impose on anyone programs that they do not want to hear or see, let alone allow the CRTC to censor content on platforms.
Rather, the act provides individuals with a real opportunity for choice. There is currently no guarantee that online companies are offering Canadians a real and meaningful choice that reflects Canadian values as codified in the Broadcasting Act.
There has been a constant since the early years of radio, and that is a tension between those who believe that broadcasting undertakings should be left to market forces alone and those who—rightly, in my view—believe that intervention is required to ensure the effective availability of programming that is the product of Canadians' creative activity.
Bill C-10 is part of this continuum, which has allowed Canadians to have media that offers the best the world has to offer, while also giving prominence to the works of Canadian creators, including creators from minority and indigenous or first nations communities.
Thank you.
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