Canadian Government Seeks to Silence Debate to Pass Bill C-11 and Bill C-18

The Liberal government making moves to ensure that there is as little debate as possible on Bill C-11 and Bill C-18.

Yesterday, CRTC Chair, Ian Scott, finally admitted that Bill C-11 regulates user generated content. The admission marks the first time that the government has known all along that critics for Bill C-11 were correct. The government, however, just didn’t want to admit to their dirty deeds throughout the whole process.

On the back of the admission, however, it seems that the Liberal government is now trying to limit debate and ram through both Bill C-11 and Bill C-18. It’s almost like an admission that, yes, the bills are bad, but they don’t care. Cracking down on the Internet is one of their top priorities and now that the fortress of lies to defend the legislation is crumbling down, all they care about is getting the legislation passed. For Bill C-11, this was noted by a “pre-study” which is being used to try and limit debate on the legislation. From Michael Geist:

The review of the Online Streaming Act (Bill C-11) heads to committee next week as the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage plans to devote roughly 20 hours to hearing over the next two weeks. I have received an invitation and may appear as soon as next week. While the House of Commons committee study is just getting underway, the Senate has been debating the possibility of conducting a “pre-study” of the bill at its own committee. Pre-studies are somewhat unusual since they are conducted before the bill has formally been referred to the committee or, in the case of the Senate, even passed the House of Commons. In fact, Bill C-10, the predecessor to Bill C-11, started with a pre-study which ultimately undermined the overall committee study that many believed was inadequate.

The proposal for a Senate pre-study comes from the government as a motion in support was introduced by Senator Marc Gold, who represents the government in the Senate. A vote on the plan could come next week, but yesterday Senator Donna Dasko, who sits with the Independent Senators Group and was appointed to the Senate by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2018, articulated the concerns with the pre-study approach and what it could mean for Bill C-11

Senator Dasko’s suspicions are on the money. Canadians’ confidence in Bill C-11 depends upon a comprehensive review by both the House and Senate. Any effort to limit that review – including by way of a pre-study that seems likely to limit formal committee review – should be rejected.

The efforts to limit debate isn’t exclusive to Bill C-11. The other bad bill, Bill C-18, also appears to be getting a similar treatment: shut up about debate and pass it yesterday:

The government isn’t even pretending to have actual debate on Bill C-18. Cutting off House debate with scarcely any discussion so far despite implications for Internet linking, indexing and an independent press.

The moves represent history repeating itself. Back in 2021, the Canadian government was pushing through Bill C-10 (which is basically the same bill as bill C-11 today). In an effort to do so, it was going shoulder to the wheel in their efforts to silence debate and implemented “gag orders” on lawmakers.

Of course, at the time, the context was that time was running out before the next election (which the Liberals wound up calling thinking they could get a majority government). In the process, they ended up killing Bill C-10 much to the relief of Canadians across the country at the time.

This time, it looks like the context is very different. There is no time limitations for them to really pass these bills. Instead, it looks more like they know that their lies to sell the legislation simply fell flat. While the obvious answer is to go back and try and fix what is wrong, they are choosing to ram the bills through the legislative process, knowing full well that there is very valid questions about the constitutional validity of those bills. If there was any doubt before that these bills were written by lobbyists, any lingering doubts were erased by these latest actions by the government. The jig is up and the last thing they want to do is disappoint their corporate handlers again.

We’ve said from the very beginning that fighting these bills was going to be a very tall order. While Canada has a long history of having very bad legislation die on the order-paper (think Canadian DMCA, Lawful Access, etc.), having that same fate get bestowed on these bills was always going to be a very tall order. It is looking more like the bills are going to pass eventually and Liberals are not letting anything stop them from trampling on freedom of expression in the process. As a result, it looks like the court challenge we predicted was going to happen is going to be one step closer to becoming reality. It’s not an easy thing to see your right to expression is going to hang in the balance in a court proceeding, but that seems like what Canadians are going to face eventually.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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