Bill C-11 Passes House of Commons, Now at Senate for Final Vote

The Canadian senate is now officially the only thing standing in the way of Bill C-11 abolishing freedom of expression.

Yesterday, we reported on the Canadian government, once again, shutting down debate to pass Bill C-11 at all costs. The version at the House of Commons level stripped the legislation of a critical Senate fix that properly scoped out user generated content and framed Section 4.2 in a way that did exactly what the government said it wanted it to do. With the rejection, the Canadian government made it crystal clear that the whole point of Bill C-11 was to regulate user generated content.

We are learning that, sometime after our report, the legislation passed the House of Commons level. Now, at this point, it heads to the Senate for a final vote. At this point, the question is whether the Canadian senate will defend freedom of expression or surrender the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and pass the legislation anyway. Canadian content creators have a lot riding on this. Passing the bill without putting the critical Section 4.2 fix back into the bill will represent a devastating blow to content creators, creativity, freedom of expression, and innovation. If the Senate does the right thing and counters with a version that puts the Section 4.2 fix back into the bill, then the process continues to carry on.

To be clear, once again, Bill C-11 has now power to actively remove content. However, the bill does compel platforms to forcibly promote content certified by the Canadian government as “Cancon” over everything else. As a result, speech not explicitly blessed by the Canadian government would get downranked. Because of this, it makes it much more difficult for independent creators to have their voices heard. Because of the Canadian government intervening in the systems in place on platforms, they are ghettoizing the speech of independent creators. As a result, those creators are having their right to freedom of expression violated because they are largely being barred from being heard.

So, if Canadian content creators want to have their voices heard, then they will need to find other means of promoting themselves outside of the platforms themselves. Such an order will not be easy. What’s more is that Canadian content creators have been clear that this will have a catastrophic effect on their business models. Sponsorship deals will be harder to come by, ad revenue will be much more difficult to obtain with fewer viewers, and their audiences will start to dry up. In response, some of those creators have made it clear that they are actively considering fleeing the country just to continue their online careers they worked very hard to build up.

For us, platforms will end up being third party storage for viewing video’s. The only reliable way to promote our content will be through this website. The bill will very easily stunt our ability to grow and branch out into video production – an increasingly dominant aspect of the internet these days. Fortunately, we have diversified our portfolio of offerings to the point that this bill will only marginally hurt us. Unfortunately, others won’t be so lucky as many creators have put everything into video content creation.

As we earlier pointed out the devastating changes to the internet won’t be happening overnight. If Bill C-11 becomes law without the critical senate fix, it’s not like those audiences will disappear overnight. For one, the Canadian regulator, the CRTC (Can’t Recognize True Canadian, er, Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission) will need time to set up shop and hire and train new employees as they begin their quest to regulate the internet. Such a process is going to take months.

On top of that, there are going to be legal challenges to this bill. Such challenges can be on a whole host of things including the unconstitutional nature of the bill (We suspect CIPPIC might have a hand in that one), the platforms themselves might find other ways of challenging the bill, and, of course, the international trade retaliation as the US is already gearing up to challenge the law on discriminatory grounds. Regardless, such court legal battles will take years. What’s more, there is reason for optimism that the courts might actually smack the bill down. Failing to do that, however, that process will take at least a year to work out.

So, while some moron out there might point to the internet not changing overnight as somehow “proof” that the critics are wrong, we know better. Either way, if Canada is transitioning into a post freedom of expression world, the transition to that more dystopian version of Canada is going to take time.

At any rate, all eyes are on the senate. The question is whether or not they will stand up for the Canadian Charter or fold under pressure. That is a question that only the Canadian senate can answer at this point. What we do know is Canada is watching.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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