Mr. Chair, to Ms. Dabrusin's point, originally there were two sections within this bill that had to do with individuals. One had to do with individual users, and one had to do with the programs those individuals might use to convey their message or the material they're wishing to share.
The section having to do with users is still intact. The section having to do with the programs that users use was removed. If an individual were to use YouTube, Facebook, TikTok or Twitter, they would be held to the regulations within the CRTC in terms of how those programs are used. That is a direct imposition on their freedom.
I'm not necessarily one who is arguing this on my own. In fact, when Ms. Dabrusin first brought forward the idea that clause 3 should be removed from the bill, Mr. Owen Ripley had comments to make in that regard. Mr. Owen Ripley, of course, is the director general of the broadcasting, copyright and creative marketplace branch at Canadian Heritage. These are his words. He said, “Ms. Dabrusin has signalled, the government intends to...repeal...section 4.1”.
At that point, it was only an intent. Now it's been followed through on.
He went on to say:
...meaning that there would no longer be any exclusion for social media services at all.
For the benefit of the committee, in our previous sessions, the committee upheld the exclusion for users of social media companies. In other words, when you or I upload something to YouTube or some other sharing service, we will not be considered broadcasters for the purposes of the act. ...The CRTC couldn't call us before them, and we couldn't be subject to CRTC hearings.
However, Mr. Ripley continued by saying that if the exclusion were to be removed and the proposed new section 4.1 struck down, as it was last week, “the programming we upload onto YouTube, the programming we place on that service, would be subject to regulation moving forward but would be the responsibility of YouTube or whatever the sharing service is.” It is very important to note his words when he said, “it would be subject to regulation moving forward”. Those were his words. This is an expert.
For Ms. Dabrusin to try to mislead this committee, and for the government to try to mislead Canadians into thinking they wouldn't be impacted by this change, is wrong. If they are not scared to have this challenged, then why not allow for a charter statement to be redrafted based on the change that was made last week?
Of course, Mr. Ripley is not the only one who provided that type of commentary. In addition to him, former CRTC commissioner Peter Menzies—and I would hope if we're going to listen to any expert, we would want to listen to him—said that this legislation, “doesn’t just infringe on free expression; it constitutes a full-blown assault upon it and, through it, the foundations of democracy.” That is an extremely strong statement.
He also stated, “It’s difficult to contemplate the levels of moral hubris, incompetence or both that would lead people to believe such an infringement of rights is justifiable.”
Mr. Chair, this is a huge issue. For us to move forward as a committee with little to no regard for wanting to protect the charter rights of Canadians is frightening.
We like the charter. We post it proudly on our walls, as members of Parliament. We talk about it in the House of Commons with passion. We defend it rigorously. At least, that's what we used to do. For us to treat it as if it's just a suggested document rather than the supreme law of the land, is a shame on us.
To suggest we can just move forward, that it's not a big deal or that we will just wait until the end, which probably isn't true, is wrong. It's so wrong. Canadians deserve better. Canadians deserve to have their charter rights protected. Canadians deserve to have the members of this committee wish to seek greater clarity.
Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa and the Canada research chair in Internet and e-commerce law, said, “The government believes that it should regulate all user generated content, leaving it to [the] regulator to determine on what terms and conditions will be attached the videos of millions of Canadians on sites like Youtube, Instagram, TikTok, and hundreds of other services.”
He is an expert in this field, and that is what he is saying. He is raising a massive red flag with regard to the part of this bill that was removed last week, which thereby removed protection for individuals and their use of social media and the content they post on the various platforms that are available to them. For us to move forward with little regard for the words spoken by former CRTC commissioner Peter Menzies, or Michael Geist, an expert in this area, or Mr. Owen Ripley, who is the director general of the broadcasting, copyright and creative marketplace branch, and pretend that somehow as individual members of Parliament we know better is incredibly pompous and incredibly irresponsible of us.
We have an opportunity here to do the right thing, so I'm confused as to why members wouldn't wish to do that. Why wouldn't we wish to push the pause button and seek a charter statement? That's simply what we're asking for here. If the charter statement says there is no problem and the bill aligns with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, then I guess it's the prerogative of the government to put the legislation through, if they have the votes within the House of Commons.
The whole point of clause-by-clause is to carefully analyze the legislation that is before a committee, and to ask good questions, seek clarification and make sure we are doing the right thing and acting in the best interests of Canadians. As of right now, based on the things that have been said by the experts I have listed, I am concerned that this bill, as it stands right now with the amendments that have been made, goes too far, and that it does infringe on the rights and freedoms of Canadians.
My request is very simple. I am respectfully asking that we push the pause button, seek a charter statement, move forward after we have that statement and do so in the best interests of Canadians, fighting for their freedom, defending their voices and ultimately standing by what we call the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which in subsection 2(b) offers protection for people's “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression”. That thought, belief, opinion and expression can take place in the reality we call “nonvirtual” and in the reality we call virtual, such as social media platforms or apps. I believe we need to make sure we're contending for that and protecting it, and that we are on the side of Canadians and the supreme law of the land.