Justice Minister Walks Back Charter Statement, Calls it “Explanatory Document”

Canada’s Justice Minister, David Lametti, is walking back the Charter Examination status and called the document an “Explanatory Document” instead.

You can add David Lametti, Canada’s Justice Minister, to the list of high ranking officials who tried, and failed, to defend Bill C-10. For some time, MPs were calling for Canada’s Justice Department to re-examine Bill C-10 now that it regulates user generated content. The obvious implications being that it impacts free speech. After significant questions were being raised as to why such a thing was actively being blocked, MPs finally got what they wanted and obtained a Charter review.

The Justice Department then, within a day, quickly scribbled down a statement rubberstamping Liberal Party talking points while, as many pointed out, utterly failing to actually examine the legislation itself. The document, itself, was confusing because it initially asserts that the legislation does not regulate user generated content only to later admit that it does, but the CRTC responsible for regulating user generated content would totally, pinky swear, reflect on the Charter and not infringe on that.

That obviously was not good enough for critics who noted the complete absence of Justice Minister, David Lametti. Critics wanted him to answer for that document that was labelled as a Charter review. However, Lametti ended up being missing in action until very recently.

According to Global, the Minister defended his departments actions for issuing the non-analysis analysis:

Justice Minister David Lametti is defending his finding that Bill C-10 doesn’t threaten Canadians’ charter rights, despite concerns from experts about the impact the legislation could have on free speech online.

Lametti’s comments came after the justice department took a second look at the charter statement for the bill, which was signed off on by Lametti himself, and found the proposed legislation doesn’t unduly tread on Canadians’ charter-affirmed rights.

“It is our position that the bill as tabled and these proposed amendments are consistent with the charter,” said Lametti, speaking to the Canadian heritage committee on Tuesday.

Opposition MPs had requested the new charter statement after multiple experts warned a version of the bill could allow the government to regulate everything Canadians post on social media.

The report was sparse on details over how he defended the move, but after digging around, we found out that observers of the hearing are telling a much bigger picture over what went down when he was questioned by MPs. In one tweet, Michael Geist notes that the Minister is walking back the statements status as a “Charter Review”:

Anyone thinking @DavidLametti would defend Bill C-10 Charter compliance is being left disappointed including NDP & Bloc MPs. Says substantive answers off-limits as won’t provide legal advice to committee. Downgraded updated charter statement to “explanatory document”.

So, in other words, the department failed to give the committee the document it wanted. Instead, it initially passed off the document as the requested charter review, then, when asked, decided to re-label it later.

Apparently, the Minister was also evaded multiple questions about the constitutional status of the legislation:

Disappointing appearance at Heritage Committee from @DavidLametti. Unwilling to answer questions about Bill C-10 saying no legal advice, admits there is no updated Charter statement only an “explanatory document”. As I detailed here, doesn’t explain much.

Justice Minister @DavidLametti now asked about speech implications of discoverability regulations in Bill C-10. Again refuses to answer the question.

When asked specific questions about Bill C-10 says “he doesn’t provide committees with legal advice.”. @RachaelHarderMP asks about the applicability of the bill to user generated content. @DavidLametti
won’t answer. Tries to pass question off to @S_Guilbeault

Justice Minister @davidlametti before Heritage committee on Bill C-10. Immediately clear won’t actually answer questions about the Charter statement. In fact, now says updated Charter statement isn’t a Charter statement at all but is “an explanatory document.”

If Bill C-10 is, in fact, constitutional, it shouldn’t be hard for the Justice Department to say so. In fact, it would be easy for the Minister to point out, in detail, how the legislation doesn’t infringe on freedom of expression. Instead, this paints a picture of the Minister trying to avoid the questions and spin his way out of this one. Why even resort to a tactic if this legislation is constitutional in the first place?

Of course, this all represents a very familiar pattern for the few Bill C-10 supporters. We’ve seen Steven Guilbeault struggle to even make sense during questioning, let alone formulate a viable defense of the legislation. In one video we’ve seen, the Minister was asked how he intends on explaining why the legislation is constitutional. The Minister replied by saying that he has a list of people who support the legislation among other attempts to respond.

Then, during an interview on CTV, the minister admitted that the legislation regulates user generated content. The next day, the Minister tried to walk back those comments, trying to erase what he flatly admitted and explained in detail. That interview was a follow-up to the earlier part of this train wreck when, during an interview on the CBC, couldn’t even answer a single question about the legislation – no, literally, the whole interview was a single question and he couldn’t answer it.

Other supporters, such as the Toronto Star, didn’t really do much better. In an editorial piece, the Star attempted to defend the legislation only to utterly fail to get the most basic facts about the legislation right. Another supporter resorted to mudslinging, effectively accusing opponents of not wanting to support democracy.

While supporters of the legislation were left scrambling to find any method of defending the legislation at all, critics are continuously growing more united. That was made apparent with a recent open letter by organizations, experts, and advocates all speaking on a united front. The open letter also seemingly shows promise that if the government refuses to accept that the legislation has problems and passes it, then litigation to nullify the unconstitutional legislation is all but a sure thing at that point.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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