Bill C-11 Appears Stalled at the Senate With User Generated Content At the Heart of Controversy

Bill C-11 was expected to pass at the Senate sometime last week. Mercifully, it still hasn’t passed.

After getting back from break, the Canadian senate immediately went to debating Bill C-11 as it seemed to be destined for final passage. For Canadian creators, you could almost get a sense of resignation that their careers will soon be in jeopardy. To paraphrase JJ McCullough, all that activism for nothing.

For us, it looked as though freedom of expression was soon to be abolished, relegated to simply being a privilege where you must beg the government for permission to be heard – this by filling out 20 page forms for each individual video uploaded and waiting months, if not, over a year for approval. Otherwise, the CRTC would ensure that you will never reach a broad audience on the very platforms creators have called home for years, if not, over a decade. This while other creators from other countries are freely able to upload similar video’s and gain access to a global audience immediately.

To say that this is a crummy situation is an understatement. The Canadian government has declared war on the open internet and has chosen to focus all firepower on creators first. Canadian creators did not choose to be on the front lines of Canada’s war on the internet, but the government forced their hand and choose between either fighting for their lives or running the other way. Some had to go from people who have no clue how government operates to small time expert in the matter of weeks just to keep up with developments.

For independent news organizations that are actually paying attention, the developments are nothing short of horrific. Some, like ourselves, lent support for the cause by publishing factual information and combating disinformation that, more often then not, came from mainstream news outlets and government officials. For some of us, the situation is quite clear: either fight on a united front on Bill C-11 or let the government take out digital first creators before moving on to taking out independent run news media next. We are all in this together.

Unfortunately, by the time we got to this week, the outlook wound up looking grim. The government has almost completely surrounded the city, there is only one road left, and district after district is falling into the hands of the government. The only last point of resistance remaining is with the senate and the hopes that it would push back against the government. While some senators are supportive of the cause to keep users scoped out of the bill, there is also that sense of resignation that a loss is not a matter of if, but when:

As the week wore on, I myself woke up every day and turned on the computer to see if Canada has lost freedom of expression yet or if the final political loss was going to be for another day. Each day last week, I was relieved that we have at least one more day to enjoy freedom of expression. When we got to Friday, it seems that the days going by is frustrating the government to the point of getting senators to shut down debate. Another “gag order” on lawmakers, if you will.

As a result, today, when I woke up, I fully expected the news to be that the senate had finally waved the white flag and surrendered such a critical part of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. To my pleasant surprise, that didn’t happen today. The rumour is that Conservative senators are stalling the bill. A last ditch effort if true? Perhaps. A tactic that won’t last forever? Probably. At the very least, though, the senate is buying Canadians a few more days. Canadians can, at least, be grateful for that.

One can only imagine the sleepless nights and long running anxiety and worry digital first creators are experiencing right now. Everything they worked hard for is currently on the line, after all. While some might already be reaching for that moving app, at least the battle hasn’t been completely lost yet – however cold comfort that will be in the long run. For us, we’ll keep monitoring the situation to see if anything has changed – a continuation of waking up every day and wondering if we lost free speech yet.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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