Maxime Bernier, the Leader of the People’s Party of Canada (PPC), has expressed his concerns about Bill C-11, a recently passed internet censorship legislation in Canada, warning that it is “dangerous” and could lead to a metaphorical “wall” being erected around the nation’s internet, mirroring the online experience of people in Communist China. In this article, we will discuss the details of Bill C-11 and why Bernier thinks it is a threat to Canadians’ internet freedom.
What is Bill C-11?
Bill C-11, which became law last Thursday after the Senate voted to pass the bill despite the House of Commons rejecting their proposed amendments, mandates that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) oversee regulating online content on platforms such as YouTube and Netflix to ensure that such platforms are promoting Canadian content in accordance with a variety of CRTC guidelines. However, due to the broad nature of the mandate, critics have said putting the law into practice could take years of back-and-forth debate.
Why is Bill C-11 Dangerous?
According to Bernier, there is absolutely no need for the government and the CRTC to tell platforms to modify their algorithms to promote Canadian content. He believes that Canadians can decide what they want for themselves without the government holding their hands. Bernier warns that this is a first step in creating a wall around the Canadian internet as the Chinese government does in China, referring to the heavy regulations placed on the internet by the Communist Chinese Party (CCP), which prohibits citizens from accessing a variety of mainstream websites.
Bernier also notes that “the majority of Senators caved in and voted for the bill even after the government had rejected a crucial amendment proposed by senators Julie Miville-Dechêne and Paula Simons to clarify that it would not be used to regulate independent creators posting videos on YouTube and other platforms, which would be a clear violation of free expression.”
Bernier believes that the bill poses uncertainty in regard to its impact on user-generated content. While the bill’s initial sponsor, Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez, has said he will issue a policy direction to the CRTC next month that will clarify that content by independent creators will not be captured by the law, Bernier wonders why such clarification was not made prior to the bill’s passing. He questions whether the Liberals want to keep this option on the table for the future, and if this is a way to incrementally increase the government’s censorship powers.
Critics, including Bernier, Chris Wick from @chriswicknews, and Michael Geist, the research chair of internet and e-commerce law at the University of Ottawa, have warned Bill C-11 could spell disaster for internet freedom for Canadians, especially content creators. Even Big Tech giants YouTube and Apple, which both have a history of enacting their own forms of censorship on users, had urged the Senate to stall the bill.
Bill C-11 is just one of many similar pieces of legislation introduced by Trudeau’s Liberals since they took power in 2015. Late last year, the Trudeau government decided to fast-track another content-regulation bill, C-18, titled the “Online News Act,” by rushing it through the House of Commons. This bill is also now before the Senate. Bernier and other critics of Bill C-11, including Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) leader Pierre Poilievre, have sounded the alarm over the implications of the bill on freedom of speech, promising Canadians to turf the law should he be elected prime minister.
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