Has Canada’s Online Harms Bill Been Tabled? Not Yet

With the Canadian government’s online harms plans being released, we decided to clarify the status of this legislation.

Earlier this week, we helped break the news of Canada’s online harms legislation. Shortly after, we posted our response to these proposed ideas. Obviously, we are against it simply because destroying the Canadian Internet is not good news for a news website like us. Not opposing this legislation would be idiotic of us.

Of course, shortly after the dust started to settle over this latest effort to crack down on the Internet, we noticed some confusion as to where this Online Harms business is even at. So, we thought it made sense to clear this up definitively for now.

Readers who have been keeping tabs on us for a few weeks now will note that, on June 30th, the Canadian senate adjourned without passing Bill C-10. Right now, the House of Commons is also adjourned for the Summer break as well. Because of this, Bill C-10 is not moving forward for, at least, right now.

So, the question is, what about the Online Harms thing? As of now, the Online Harms legislation isn’t even really legislation. Instead, the Canadian government is currently going through public “consultation”. More accurately, as mentioned in my response to the consultation (which is still ongoing and that article has a link to the consultation), it’s seemingly a consultation by notice. The government released a technical paper outlining what it envisions the legislation to be. This, of course, follows closely with the Heritage Minister’s approach of, “This is my idea, neither comment nor expertise nor reality nor common sense is going to stop me. If you disagree with anything I say, you will simply get bulldozed down.”

Because of that, there is little expectation that anything is really going to change no matter what evidence or expert comment is presented at this stage. Of course, these consultations can take place outside of the legislative process simply because it doesn’t involve tabling or voting on a particular bill. In some regards, it’s basically the “brainstorming” stage that sits prior to the legislation being tabled.

For those living in Canada, it’s obvious we are in the “election season, not an election season”. Basically, the government is unrolling all these nice sounding announcements while badly pretending this isn’t an effort to drum up votes pre-election. Every other leader is effectively out campaigning as well and the media is, of course, reporting on things as if an election has already been called right down to elaborate poll tracking. Most are speculating that an election will be called anywhere between this month and within the next couple of months. If an election isn’t called before the end of the year, I think almost every analyst will be quite shocked.

So, as we reported several times in the past, should that election get called as almost everyone is expecting, Bill C-10 will die on the order paper. On a technical level, there is no weird exception to the rules or something to bargain with. The legislation is, in fact dead. The obvious expectation is that the bill will get re-introduced after the next election, but it has to start at square one (probably on an accelerated track).

The question is, what about the Online Harms bill at this stage? Much like Bill C-10, it won’t become law or legislation if an election is called like everyone is expecting. With the consultation now, it’s very likely just the politician’s doing all the leg work that does not involve parliament or the senate. This way, when the next sitting of government happens, the legislation can be tabled early on in the next mandate.

The inevitable question at this stage is, “OK, so what are the odds it passes in the next government?” At this stage, we are really reaching with our analysis. What we can say for sure is that if the Liberal majority government is achieved (as the current polls are suggesting), then it’s going to make opposing this seemingly destined terrible legislation much more difficult. If a Liberal minority government is the outcome, then there is still a good shot at opposing this. This is because the Liberals will need the support of at least one other party to pass this (among other wrinkles in the plan as we saw during this session of parliament). We know full well that the Liberals want this to become law and they are willing to push this through.

Timing, obviously, is going to be difficult to predict as well. It all depends on how high on the priority list is destroying the Canadian Internet is for the Liberal party. We can say for certain that it won’t be priority number one. This is because the legislation that typically takes that spot is the Federal budget. From there, things get hazy. Will the Liberal Party prioritize the Conversion Therapy Ban legislation or will they push shoulder to the wheel on the anti-Internet bill? At this point, we really don’t know.

Naturally, what we know even less on at this stage is fixed dates. If we don’t know when the next election is, that makes it impossible to even begin to speculate on when this legislation is going to happen. The disaster legislation will happen when it happens.

Another question mark that no one knows for sure is the final form of this legislation. At best (for this legislation), we can say that we are probably somewhere around the early drafting stages of this legislation. Chances are, we are at the stage where there isn’t even draft legislation being written and, instead, are just idea’s floating around inside some people’s minds.

So, that is where we are generally at. The first thing everyone is waiting for is an election call. Until that happens, there really isn’t much in the way of satisfactory answers at this stage. Hopefully, that clears up some of the questions surrounding the status of the Online Harms legislation not legislation at this stage.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.



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