Canadian Senate Signals It Plans on Properly Studying Bill C-11, Delay into Summer Break Quite Certain

It’s looking very likely that Parliament will break for the Summer without passing Bill C-11. What a relief.

Last week, we mentioned how it was looking increasingly likely that Parliament will head to the Summer break without passing Bill C-11. If that happens, then Canada will be able to retain basic free speech at least until September. Observers, including us, have been quite puzzled as to why there is a rush to get this legislation passed before the Summer break. There really wasn’t any clear answer on that because a delay until after the Summer is over really doesn’t change anything in the long run.

Still, it seems that, for Liberals, cracking down on the Internet cannot come soon enough. So, they seemingly repeated history by engaging in secret lawmaking, shutting down all debate and demanding that lawmakers vote on all roughly 150 amendments without questions or discussion. Video footage of lawmakers passing amendments based on number was quite stark and it did show everyone just how anti-democratic the process can be.

Ultimately, the Liberals really did lose the debate and, thus, lost the social credit to pass this legislation. It has been clear since day one that Bill C-11 regulates user generated content. It was confirmed by CRTC chair, Ian Scott, many digital first content creators and members of the music industry have all come to the same conclusion. This over top of the many experts who agree that Bill C-11 does regulate user generated content. Still, the Liberals stuck to their debunked talking point that users are out. In spite of all of this, when an amendment was proposed to remove user generated content from the bill, the Liberals, NDP, and Bloc all voted against it, highlighting that it is the intention of the government to regulate user generated content.

While the Heritage Standing Committee claimed to have engaged in proper study of the legislation, it has become increasingly clear that the government was simply engaging in an exercise in confirmation bias. This comes down to intentionally bringing in those supporting the law so they can all agree with the governments position. One of the witnesses, brought in by Conservatives, ended up noticing this and feeling disenfranchised about the whole process. In fact, whenever creators voiced their concerns, the Canadian government openly attacked those creators for daring to question the legislation in the first place – even tracking those creators down on social media and openly harassing them on top of it all. It is clear that the government was trying to engage in a box ticking exercise rather than listen to stakeholders on all sides.

So, it is with that that the Canadian Senate is sending signals that they intend on engaging in a proper study of the bill. If so, then this all but seals the deal that Bill C-11 won’t be passing before the Summer break. It may be possible that the Canadian government might try to extend the days the Senate sits and debates, but a full study takes more than a few days. The idea, at this stage, of trying to get through a Senate study of the legislation, hold the votes necessary, pass it down to the House of Commons, and get the legislation to receive Royal Ascent before breaking for the Summer seems rather absurd at this point. Unless the Canadian government can think of something that would magically make this all happen within such a tight timeline, it is looking like it is all but certain that Canadian content creators will have a reprieve throughout the Summer.

While this is fantastic news that things will very likely get delayed, this really is a case of winning the battle, but losing the war. We currently have a situation where the government has now been embarrassed twice now. The first time when they called an election thinking they could pass then Bill C-10 before it is over really stung them. The second time is this self imposed, seemingly unnecessary deadline of getting this legislation passed before the Summer. It’s basically a case of stubbing ones toe a second time. to be fair, the Liberals really only have themselves to blame for these delays. After all, they didn’t have to call that election and they didn’t have to set that self-imposed deadline. Yet, they chose to do both anyway. While they might simply sit there and say it is all the Conservative’s fault, it doesn’t make sense that the Liberal’s can escape any blame either.

Inevitably, though, when government resumes in the Fall, the Liberals, with the NDP and Bloc in tow, are going to make sure this legislation gets passed at the earliest possible opportunity. They made cracking down on the Internet their number one priority, even going to the extreme of basically suggesting that sexual assault is no big deal as they tried to pass motions brushing this obviously more important issue aside in the process to make way for this legislation. Really, the question becomes this: how long will it take before Bill C-11 is passed once government reconvenes? It’s probably not going to be a lot of time, but there’s no clear time table that can be speculated on at this stage.

Still, as gut wrenching as it is at times to watch the details of this debate unfold, there is the silver lining that passage of this legislation won’t happen until, at least, sometime in September. At least Canadian creators can relax for a bit because being tense about an issue for an extended period of time is not exactly healthy at the very least. What’s more, as some creators have hinted at, it will also give creators a chance to determine whether or not moving out of the country is viable and which country to move to as well. That, of course, is a rather extreme reaction to this, but it is easy to see why some would freak out in this way.

Of course, as we’ve been saying for years now, just because passage of this law seems to be all but a sure thing doesn’t necessarily mean that Canadians have run out of tools to fight this bill. It would still have to withstand a court challenge which seems to be all but a sure thing. There are way too many stakeholders that know that they are about to be royally screwed over by this bill to not have someone challenge it. My prediction still is that someone like CIPPIC will get involved. Whether they ultimately become a lead litigant or are there to file an amicus brief to side with whoever is challenging the law, of course, remains to be seen. While this prediction has been my personal one for quite some time, I haven’t personally seen anything that changes that prediction at this point. So, I’d say that the courts are what could potentially take this law down.

The Senate will delay the proceedings, but I’m not quite as confident as others that they would be able to fully put a stop to this bill. There is an outside chance that they would revive the Green Party amendment to actively exclude user generated content, though I suspect the Liberals will push hard against that because the whole point of this bill is to regulate user generated content. That was made abundantly clear a few days ago when they voted against this fix to the bill.

While it is a long shot that the Senate can put the brakes on this bill entirely, it is still nice to have a small victory in that this bill will probably not be passed before the Summer break. So, unless something completely unexpected happens last minute, those who support Internet innovation will have reason to breath a sigh of relief for the time being.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.



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