Bloc’s Support of Bill C-10 Could Mean Politics Threatens to Overrule Reality

When it come to how Bill C-10 passes, thanks to the Bloc, it could be politics making a triumph over the law and how the real world works.

Defending Bill C-10 for supporters has become mission impossible. The last real argument that we’ve seen for Bill C-10 is that section 2.1 exempts user generated content, so stop worrying about it. Well, as we showed in response, that section 2.1 really only means that the person behind the content won’t be prosecuted, however, the content they produce will be heavily regulated under this legislation.

Legally, the bill’s future is going to be, at best, very rocky because digital rights organizations and observers have already lined up against the legislation. At least one of those organizations, CIPPIC, has a history of taking big names to court if user rights are being violated. This is pretty much a sign that, if the bill passes, it’s future will be that it’ll be challenged in court on constitutional grounds. We obviously don’t know who will ultimately litigate the case, but it is a sign that this is all but a sure thing at this stage should the legislation be passed.

With the Minister pushing the legislation having his credibility burned to the ground and Canadian creators already speaking out against this legislation, almost no one is a big fan of this outside of political circles.

During Question Period, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, had to do what he could to salvage the situation himself. The problem the Prime Minister faces, though, is that he doesn’t really have much to go on when it comes to defense outside of some talking points:

Ms. Rachael Harder (Lethbridge, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, in 2018, the current Liberal Minister of Justice said, “Our government supports an open Internet where Canadians have the power to communicate freely and have access to the legal content of their choice.” That seems like a good idea.
Sadly, Bill C-10 does the exact opposite. It actually takes choice away from Canadians by dictating the content they should and should not view online. It is sneaky. It is controlling, and it is wrong. Why is the Prime Minister insisting on regulating the Internet?

Right Hon. Justin Trudeau (Prime Minister, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, just as Canada’s analysis confirms that Bill C-10 remains consistent with the charter’s guarantee of freedom of expression, Bill C-10 aims to level the playing field between creators and web giants.
It requires big, powerful foreign streamers to provide information on their revenues in Canada, to financially contribute to Canadian stories and music, and to make it easier for individuals to discover our culture.
The bill explicitly says that obligations apply to web giants only: not to Canadian users. Web giants have gone unregulated for far too long. Our government has chosen action over reaction.

Ms. Rachael Harder (Lethbridge, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, that was embarrassing. There was a lot of um’s and ah’s and a few stumbles, yet the Prime Minister is not able to define Canadian content. He likes to talk about it a lot, though.
Let us talk a little more about Canadian creators, shall we? Brian Wyllie from Calgary is an expert gamer who has over a million followers on Twitch. Montrealer Kiana Gomes created a whole business using TikTok. Sadly, these self-made creators just are not Canadian enough to be considered artists by the Liberals. Bill C-10 would punish them, demote them and prevent them from being further successful.
Why is the Prime Minister hell-bent on punishing these ingenious creators?

Right Hon. Justin Trudeau (Prime Minister, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, on the contrary, what we have demonstrated from the very beginning of our time in office in 2015 is that we are there to support Canadian content and Canadian creators right across the country, particularly after a Conservative government did nothing but attack culture and content creators, and limit the cultural industries in this country.
We will continue to stand up for producers and creators of great Canadian content right across the country. Bill C-10 is about giving the CRTC the tools to do just that in a world where people do not only get their Canadian content from CBC or CTV or on the radio.
We need to make sure we continue to support Canadian content. That is exactly what we are going to do. It is no surprise the Conservatives do not get it.

Harder, of course, is raising a very valid point which has been a big question about this legislation: what does count as Canadian content? Canadian content regulations on what counts as Canadian and what doesn’t can be extremely ambiguous on traditional mediums. Throw in the Internet, and it’s pretty much an impossible task to define what is and isn’t Canadian. To date, we haven’t seen much of an answer outside of “the CRTC will handle that”.

Trudeau, for his part, dodged the question entirely. While he can’t exactly explain specific examples because that would theoretically be in the jurisdiction of the CRTC, he could very easily have given an indication on where the government is headed in making different determinations on more broad terms. Unfortunately, he couldn’t even make it that far. Instead, relying on the standard talking point of how he just wants to promote Canadian content.

What’s more is that Trudeau’s answer about how an analysis already proves it is charter compliant holds no water. After a multitude of calls for a Charter review, MPs thought they were going to get one. The next day, they got a quick note scribbled down repeating Liberal talking points all the while not addressing the core concerns. The Justice Minister, for his part, was missing in action in all of this.

After weeks of demanding to hear from the Minister, the Justice Minister did finally appear and wound up downgrading the document his department provided down to an “explanatory document”. So, in other words, he failed to provide what MPs were asking for. Good enough for Trudeau who apparently touted this as proof the legislation doesn’t violate the Charter.

Part of the questions during question period revolved around whether or not this legislation does violate network neutrality. The short answer is that, on a fundamental level, it does. This is because network neutrality is all about ensuring content of all kinds are treated equally on the Internet. Things do get a little weird in that it involves the government ordering websites to prioritize content instead of the ISPs doing so for business reasons. Still, it is generally a violation of network neutrality. Michael Geist, for his part, explains this in more detail.

The other part of this round of question period, however, deals with the Bloc’s support of the legislation:

Mr. Martin Champoux (Drummond, BQ):
Mr. Speaker, the cultural community and the media have been waiting for decades for Ottawa to reform the CRTC and compel web giants to co-operate. Quebec culture has waited long enough. Bill C-10 must be passed before the end of the session, here and in the Senate.
The leader of the Bloc Québécois offered the government its highest possible level of co-operation. The House leader of the Bloc Québécois offered the same kind of co-operation to his counterpart. The Bloc has held out its hand. Will the Prime Minister finally take that hand so we can pass Bill C-10?

Right Hon. Justin Trudeau (Prime Minister, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, we are very pleased with the co-operation we have received from several parties to improve protection for our artists and cultural communities. We must, of course, hold debates in the House and we must also act to protect Canadian content and content creators in a world that is increasingly digital.
We gladly welcome and are grateful for the goodwill of the members of the House who want to work together to protect our artists and continue to ensure a strong cultural sector for our economy.

Mr. Martin Champoux (Drummond, BQ):
Mr. Speaker, those fine intentions are music to our ears. However, it seems that the Liberals do not understand the important role they have to play in advancing this work. They are the ones who decide which bills to prioritize on the calendar. They are also the ones who delayed the appearance of two ministers in committee.
In the meantime, the future of francophone arts and culture is at stake. The Bloc Québécois reached out to resolve the problem quickly. The cultural sector is watching us and wants an answer. When will the Prime Minister accept the Bloc Québécois’s offer to help pass Bill C-10?

Right Hon. Justin Trudeau (Prime Minister, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, Bill C-10 seeks to level the playing field between Canadian creators and web giants. It forces powerful foreign broadcasters to provide information on their revenues, make financial contributions to Canadian stories and music and enable different audiences to discover our culture.
We will continue to work diligently and enthusiastically to protect the Canadian and Quebec cultural sector as we have done all along since coming to power in 2015.

The Bloc’s reliance on generalizing Bill C-10 as a piece of legislation that would protect Quebec culture is, of course, intellectually dishonest. At best, the legislation would protect the corporate interests while effectively wiping out the competition online including Quebec creators who are producing content independently. If anything, the Bloc is pushing the agenda of lobbyists more than anything else. So, it’s little surprise that the remarks are so similar to lobbyist talking points – those same lobbyists who, at one point, pushed to abolish all protections from user generated content until they were effectively caught red-handed by experts and advocates for free speech and digital rights.

Now, the Bloc’s support for this legislation isn’t anything new. We’ve seen reports back on the 17th saying that they are wanting to help the Liberals pass this legislation.

while it is ironic that the Bloc are pushing for legislation to help protect their culture even though it stands to censor Quebec voices in the process, politically, there is a more serious problem for those who believe in free speech. This has to do with math. Combined, the Liberal’s and the Bloc can get a majority of the votes in the House of Commons as of now. So, if the bill goes to a vote and both parties support the legislation, nothing will stop the bill from passing.

So, despite the calls for reason and all the explanations on how things work in the world, there is a very real chance that politics will wind up triumphing over it simply because of how many seats both parties have. This shows a very unfortunate side of this legislation.

Still, as we pointed out previously, even if passed, the legislation has a very uncertain legal future once someone (or an organization) challenges the law on constitutional grounds. Still, there is a precarious aspect of the law being on the books, but not actually enforced. If the legislation is being challenged in court, can the CRTC still enforce the legislation? Alternatively, if Canadian creators find themselves demoted, can they sue for losses and damages? We really don’t know because this depends on how things play out.

So, while there is a good chance that the courts will shoot this legislation down, it can still wreak a lot of havoc before it gets struck down. This is what some people might not realize in this kind of scenario. Collateral damage is likely to occur in the legal interim. That is why it is ideal that this legislation gets killed before it becomes law, not after.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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