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View Kevin Waugh Profile
CPC (SK)
I call the meeting to order.
Good afternoon, everyone.
I'm filling in for our chair, Dr. Fry, who is not with us this Friday. For the next two hours, you're stuck with me as the vice-chair. Thank you very much, everyone.
Welcome to meeting number 56 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. First off, I would like to acknowledge that this meeting is, in fact, taking place on the unceded traditional territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe people.
Pursuant to the order of reference adopted by the House on Tuesday, May 31, 2022, the committee is resuming clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-18, an act respecting online communications platforms that make news content available to persons in Canada. Today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format, pursuant to the House order of Thursday, June 23, 2022. Members are attending in person in the room and remotely, as we see them on the Zoom application.
I would like to make a few comments for the benefit of witnesses and members. Please wait until I recognize you by name before speaking if you can. For those participating by video conference here this afternoon, as you know, click on the microphone icon to activate your mike, and please mute yourself when you're not speaking.
Interpretation is available for those on Zoom. You have the choice, at the bottom of your screen, of either “floor”, “English” or “French”. For those in the room, you can use the earpiece and select the desired channel.
I remind everyone that all comments should be addressed through the chair.
In accordance with our routine motion, I am informing the committee that all witnesses are present here this afternoon; therefore, no connection tests in advance of the meeting were required.
I would now like to welcome the witnesses, who are present to answer any technical questions we have about our Bill C-18 today.
I'd like to welcome, from the Department of Canadian Heritage, as always, Owen Ripley; Joelle Paré, acting director; and Pierre-Marc Lauzon. Thank you very much for joining us.
With us, as usual, is the committee clerk, Ms. Belmore. We also have the legislative clerks today. They are Philippe Méla and Jean-François Pagé.
That's everyone in the room.
Marion, you're at the back there. Thank you for also joining us here today.
We were waiting for Mr. Shields. He is on now.
We'll start where we left off on Tuesday, which was at amendment CPC-12. That's by Mrs. Thomas. Perhaps she could lead us. That's on page 18 for everybody. It's clause 7 on page 4.
Mrs. Thomas, lead us off on amendment CPC-12.
View Rachael Thomas Profile
CPC (AB)
I'm sorry, Mr. Chair, but I need just one moment here.
View Kevin Waugh Profile
CPC (SK)
While you're taking a moment, is there French translation? We've had some issues in the past. Are we okay on the French translation? Is everybody good if I keep talking? In some of our meetings, we have started and then we have had an issue. I just want to make sure.
Go ahead, Mr. Champoux.
View Martin Champoux Profile
BQ (QC)
View Martin Champoux Profile
2022-11-25 13:06
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
We need to ask our interpreters to ensure that the equipment and sound quality are adequate. I can hear the interpretation right now, so I assume everything is working.
The interpreters are signalling to us that everything is in order.
Thank you.
View Kevin Waugh Profile
CPC (SK)
Yes, that's good.
Mrs. Thomas, are you ready for amendment CPC-12?
Go ahead.
View Rachael Thomas Profile
CPC (AB)
Sure. Thank you for giving me a moment, Mr. Chair.
With regard to amendment CPC-12, really what we're trying to do here is to ensure that individual privacy is respected.
A DNI—a digital news intermediary—such as Facebook, for example, collects individual user data, and that is used and held within the confines of existing legislation within the jurisdiction in which they operate.
This amendment, CPC-12, would simply be asking for further clarification with respect to privacy protection. It's basically making sure that when a DNI has to provide information to the commission, that information will be disclosed with the exception of individual information. In other words, privacy will still be respected. Data ownership will still be protected in accordance with any other act of Parliament or any other law. It's simply for the sake of further clarity and protection for everyday online users. That's ultimately what we're going for there.
View Kevin Waugh Profile
CPC (SK)
Mr. Bittle, go ahead.
View Chris Bittle Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you so much, Mr. Chair.
Ultimately, restricting the ability of the CRTC to collect information only benefits the platforms and foreign technology giants. They could easily withhold necessary information. That's with regard to the purposes of the legislative objectives.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
View Kevin Waugh Profile
CPC (SK)
Go ahead, Mrs. Thomas.
View Rachael Thomas Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you.
I would ask the officials for some further information.
The legislation as it's currently written doesn't offer this confinement as to what information could be demanded of these DNIs.
In your estimation, then, is that quite a wide berth? Is there anything in there that would protect the privacy rights of individuals and make sure the information of an individual user—let's say, of Facebook—would in fact be protected and not called for by the commission?
Thomas Owen Ripley
View Thomas Owen Ripley Profile
Thomas Owen Ripley
2022-11-25 13:09
Thank you for the question and the comments, MP Thomas.
I have a couple of observations.
With respect to the first part of your question, the CRTC has the authority to ask for information it requires in the administration of the act. Its authority is bound by information that it needs to administer the act. The CRTC would be acting outside of its authority if it tried to request information not related to the administration of the act.
There are, indeed, other federal frameworks governing privacy—the PIPEDA legislation, and the Privacy Act with respect to the public sector—so the CRTC remains bound by those frameworks and those obligations.
With respect to what would be characterized as more confidential business information, as you may know, the act does provide for an opportunity at clause 55 for information that is submitted to the commission to be classified as confidential. There's a framework in place for how that information could be managed.
From my perspective, that's the lay of the land with respect to privacy.
View Rachael Thomas Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you. I appreciate that.
My follow-up question would be this: Currently, as it stands, are there limitations as to what the CRTC can request? If it considers information to be pertinent to this act, can it ask for it, or are there any limitations on the request that can be made?
Thomas Owen Ripley
View Thomas Owen Ripley Profile
Thomas Owen Ripley
2022-11-25 13:10
Again, it's as long as the CRTC is of the opinion that it is necessary for the administration of the act.
A reasonable hypothetical in this kind of situation might be about the number of Canadian users that a digital news intermediary has in Canada. The digital news intermediary remains bound by PIPEDA and any obligations in that respect, and then the CRTC would remain bound by the legislation governing the public sector. In that instance, for example, I would see no reason that you would have individual personal information submitted to the CRTC. Maybe you would at the aggregate level, but regardless, the CRTC remains bound by the broader framework governing privacy.
The department did have the opportunity to do some consultations on the privacy questions. The assessment was that there were minimal implications with respect to personal information.
View Rachael Thomas Profile
CPC (AB)
You used the phrase “minimal implications”, which means there are still some. Can you expand on that? What are the privacy infringements within this?
Thomas Owen Ripley
View Thomas Owen Ripley Profile
Thomas Owen Ripley
2022-11-25 13:12
Again, Mrs. Thomas, for the purposes of administering the act, from where we sit, the information that would be provided to the CRTC would be in the aggregate. I see no reason that there would be the submission of personal information.
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