Canadian Senate Debates Throwing Digital First Creators Under the Bus By Accepting Bill C-11

The Senate has resumed and is apparently debating whether to let Bill C-11 receive royal assent. This without the critical fix.

For nearly a decade and a half, there has been the rise of digital content creators. Though a vast majority started from humble, sometimes even desperate situations, there is a growing number of them that have not only been able to survive, but thrive as well. With platforms increasingly adopting revenue sharing systems, an increasing number of digital first creators have been able to pursue a full time career producing content. Fast forward to today and a number of these full time careers have become small media companies, employing a small team of people.

Indeed, in a world where multimedia content has been growing increasingly irrelevant in the traditional space, the massive growth in digital first content is quite the triumph. Average, every day people producing content that people want to consume and making a living off of it is certainly something to be excited about. There is little out there disputing that this is, indeed, a growth sector. What’s more, it further compounds the notion that the future, indeed, is the internet. Not bad for something that some consider to be little more than a space for piracy.

One would think that government would want to encourage such innovation. After all, if people are generating more revenue, that means more taxes flowing into the coffers afterwards. In fact, a sensible proposition would be to create programs that would help new creators get a better footing in this global market. Maybe even create some tax incentives explicitly to help these types of creators out so that they can grow faster. Unfortunately, that is not the case in Canada.

With Bill C-11, the government sent a message loudly and clearly: if you think about innovating online, the government will do everything in its power to make your life a living hell. If current laws aren’t hampering your efforts, the government will enact new laws to make sure that you will have new barriers to entry that are designed to make sure you will never succeed. All this in an effort to bolster old media like radio and television – industries that have long been suspected of being sunset industries in light of the rise of streaming services. If you somehow think this is hyperbole, one need not look further than the infamous Bloc comments on the bill.

Obviously, digital first creators weren’t sitting on the sidelines in all of this. They have been showing up in front of lawmakers in droves in desperate efforts to try and talk some sense into them. Ultimately, they were ignored, gaslighted, lied to, bullied, and even threatened in response. After the passage, the bill went to the Senate. So, digital first creators went running to the senate in a desperate effort to save their livelihoods. It seemed that they ended up getting a few sympathetic ears after the senate made the surprise move of actually fixing the bill.

When the bill passed the Senate, there seemed to be, for the first time, a minor sliver of hope in this debate. After the bill went back to the House of Commons, lawmakers there made it abundantly clear that the cruelty is the point – that regulating user generated content is the point of the bill. They stripped the fix in the bill and sent it back to the Senate for final approval. If it makes AuntySkates cry, then the government views this as “mission accomplished”.

While digital first creators made a last ditch plea to the Senate to not destroy their careers, the chances are not looking good for the Canadian creators. Though there is a very clear case that the Senate should send the bill back based on obvious constitutional grounds, as we pointed out, they likely won’t. This based off of the misguided thinking that if the bill doesn’t explicitly remove speech from the internet, then there is no Charter problems with the bill. It’s misguided because the bill ghettoizes speech. It’s the equivalent of saying that newspapers can only be distributed if they are attached to the insides of garbage cans on collection day – and that is somehow not government censorship.

Today, the senate is debating a motion to look at their hard work being completely stripped out and just waving the white flag. It really is a simple question before them: is the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms worth fighting for? If the answer is “yes”, then the Senate should send the bill back to the House of Commons. If the answer is “no”, then they’ll just wave the bill through without objection. When such a vote takes place remains to be seen. Still, digital first creators are no doubt having their heart in their throat or their stomach in knots over this.

Of course, the implications in all of this goes far beyond the world of digital first creators. Independent news publishers are also watching this debate nervously because if the voices of digital first creators on a bill that would deep six their careers aren’t heard, what chances do independent news organizations have in the fight over Bill C-18? Indeed, if news publishers voices are ignored, even if the senate does listen to their concerns, the House of Commons will simply veto any changes that will allow them to survive and the Senate could possibly shrug their shoulders and say, “oh well, we tried.”

Another thing worth pointing out is the fact that even after the bill receives royal assent, the fight is far from over. Pretty much every expert witness and observer are all concluding that this bill is going to get fought out in the courts afterwards. That will mean at least months of additional delay before, and hopefully that is not the case, the bill starts getting enforced on those creators. Still, it is a significant gut punch to witness the government telling an entire generation of Canadian creators and innovators that their voices do not matter in this country – at least as far as the government is concerned. No matter what reasoned arguments they put forward, they will, at best, be ignored, or at worst, threatened.

At any rate, the massive political side of this debate is coming down to this vote. It’s difficult to watch, but it is happening anyway.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top