The Liberal government is promising to change broadcasting Bill C-10 following a week of controversy that an amendment to the legislation infringes Canadians’ rights to free expression. It agreed to send the bill back to the justice minister for a second review of the bill’s compliance with charter rights, despite shutting down debate on that motion.
Heritage Minister, Steven Guilbeault, said a new amendment would make it “crystal clear” that social media posts by Canadians would not be subject to regulation by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.
University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist said Guilbeault’s announcement came after the minister had been arguing the amended bill did not affect user-generated content.
He said Guilbeault was now acknowledging “what was obvious, namely that government changes resulted in regulating the content of millions of Canadians. Many will be waiting to see what is proposed this time as the government tries to patch up a deeply flawed bill.”
On April 23, the Heritage committee removed an exemption for user-generated content from C-10, the bill that updates the Broadcasting Act and sets up the CRTC to begin regulating online companies like Netflix.
Experts feared the exemption would bring online posts by Canadians, including video posts on social media like YouTube and TikTok, under the CRTC’s authority.
Parliamentary secretary Julie Dabrusin told reporters the government still believed the bill didn’t infringe free expression rights. “There’s no change on the view that we’re not concerned about the freedom of expression aspect. It’s just if it provides greater comfort to get the charter review, then so be it, get the charter review,” Dabrusin said.
The committee didn’t vote on the motion or the Dabrusin’s amendment yet. That vote is set to happen when it meets again, though Dabrusin indicated the government wanted to agree on a compromise before then. “I would suggest that we actually take some time, we have until Friday, to talk among the parties and see if we can arrange for resolution,” she said.