A Look at Possible Timelines for Canada’s Internet and Speech Crackdown

With the Throne Speech confirming the Liberals intent on cracking down on the Internet, we look at some timelines to see what could be ahead.

when we wrote our predictions both what you won’t see and will see, some might have looked at those predictions and figured that I was being overly cynical. After all, Canada has a new Heritage Minister heading up efforts on the Internet side of things, so that clearly meant a new direction, so maybe that Drew Wilson is finally completely wrong on something.

That narrative of the Liberal government finally turning the corner quickly unravelled, however. Heritage Minister, Pablo Rodriguez, commented a mere two days later that he fully intends on picking up where the disastrous Steven Guilbeult left off with the war on the open Internet. Doubts circulated that this really meant anything given that it was one report, but for us, it just confirmed that, although the faces have changed, the policy direction has remained the same.

So, eyes quickly went to the Throne Speech. While we knew that nothing has changed, others were still holding out hope that the direction is still going to change despite the Ministers comments. Yesterday, that Throne Speech happened and proved that we were correct. In fact, 6 out of 7 of our detailed predictions seemingly were proven accurate. The only thing that we appear to be wrong, at least immediately, was the Canadian governments push for a link tax. It’s not completely dead, but given the minority situation, it is looking doubtful that it’ll become the law of the land during this session of government at least.

At any rate, any doubts that the government will continue the war on the open Internet has officially been laid to rest. The Canadian government fully intends on continuing that very war. So, at this point, the question is, where do things go to from here?

Well, if you recall, Bill C-10 did manage to make it all the way to the Senate. Senators rightfully noted how the bill basically ensures that the government gets to pick winners and losers in the online world. Despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pulling out all of the stops to make that bill law, Bill C-10 died on the orderpaper when the election was called.

So, there are two takeaways in all of this. From the Liberals perspective, their speech regulation bill is fully formed. However, the Canadian Senate is not exactly in the mood to play ball just yet. So, on the one hand, they can simply re-introduce the bill and push the legislation through quickly. On the other hand, the bill still faces an uphill battle in the Senate, so it risks getting stalled out in the Senate.

The other thing to note is that the NDP, previously a huge supporter of the legislation (some speculate it was a failed attempt to gain seats in Quebec), is starting to show signs of cold feet on the legislation thanks in part to Charlie Angus flip-flopping and calling Bill C-10 a “dumpster fire“. While that might offer some additional play, we should note that the Bloc is also a huge supporter of speech regulation. Mathematically speaking, the change in opinion might not really matter in the long term.

Then there is the scheduling of sitting days. As some have already noted, the government doesn’t have much time between now and the Christmas break. Looking at the sitting schedule, the government only has until the 17th of December to make things happen. In theory, it is possible to quickly ram through speech regulation given that the bill is fully formed. We haven’t seen movement as of yet on the bill, but it is, obviously, early days into this government. If the government can’t get the legislation through before that time, then the earliest possibility of pushing the legislation through would be January 31st of next year. That’s when parliament resumes.

Meanwhile, the Senate is in a similar spot. According to the sitting calendar, they, too, have until the 17th of January before the Christmas break. As of now, we don’t know when the Christmas break ends.

Generally speaking, there are two possibilities at this stage. The first possibility is that Bill C-10 gets rammed through quickly and gets placed on the docket for the Senate quickly before the end of the year. The other, better, possibility is that the legislation doesn’t get moved up very far and this debate will simply start happening in 2022 instead.

Regardless, the Senators were very clear that they want to study the bill in detail, so it is going to take time once it reaches the Senate. Unfortunately, time is seemingly all Canadians have left. How much is obviously up in the air. Still, it would be surprising if this legislation didn’t get passed at some point during this current government.

At that point, the only hope Canadians have left for their speech to be protected under the Canadian Charter online is litigation. Assuming the bill doesn’t really change much (and all indications point to the idea that it won’t as of now), then the legislation will get tied up in court. At that stage, the question then revolves around whether or not the bill will get to be enforced while it makes its way through the courts. We are way too far out to even begin to speculate on those aspects because there are still plenty of steps to get through just to even get close to that level of desperation.

So, from the looks of things, although Canada has managed to avoid a lot of terrible copyright and surveillance laws over the last decade plus, it’s really looking like Canadian’s luck might be running out as Canada moves forward with cracking down on free speech online. Fully avoiding the speech regulation bill and the online harms bill is going to be a very tall order based on what we know today. At this point, the question is, how much longer can Canadians enjoy their freedoms online before government takes that away. Outside of some fuzzy timelines, we don’t really know for sure at this stage.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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