Bill C-10 – Serious implications for free speech

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Why the Passing of Bill C10 Matters to Pro-lifers…and Everyone Else

Multiple gag orders, limited debate and a rushed vote in the middle of the night hardly sounds like the makings of a transparent and democratic legal process, but that is just what has happened with Bill C-10.

The controversial Bill, introduced by Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault in Fall 2020, passed in the early hours of June 22, after effectively only a few hours of debate in the House.

The Bill, which was intended to update Canada’s Broadcasting Act has sparked widely publicized criticism  from leading experts in Canadian Internet and E-Commerce law, for many reasons, not least of which is the threat they say it poses to Canadians’ fundamental right to freedom of expression.

Michael Geist, University of Ottawa professor and the Canada Research Chair in Internet law, has been an outspoken critic of the bill for many months, saying it “represents an unconscionable attack on the free expression rights of Canadians.” Even Google has weighed in saying in a media statement that they are “concerned…particularly with regards to the potential effects on Canadians’ expressive rights.”

One concern, cited by Mr. Geist, is that an amendment to the Bill removed an exclusion for user generated content, making individual Internet users subject to national broadcasting regulations.

This could allow the government to ‘prioritize’ content by individual users on social media platforms such as Youtube, Facebook and Instagram, effectively determining what Canadians see or don’t see.

The concern for law-abiding pro-lifers is the government could feasibly use this new regulatory power (via the non-elected CRTC) to favour citizens’ content which supports its position on abortion and euthanasia, for example.

Daniel Zekveld, Policy Analyst for ARPA Canada, warns that “The failure to explicitly protect content uploaded on social media could have serious implications for freedom of speech, including on important conversations surrounding human life.”  (Read more from ARPA here.)

The Bill, which passed by a 196 to 112 vote in the House of Commons now goes for review by Canada’s Senators who are poised to take their summer hiatus on June 24. The hope is that in the fall, the Bill will undergo debate in the Senate but could die if/when an election is called.

What can you do? Contact Canada’s Senators and ask them to oppose Bill C-10. For a list of Canada’s Senators, click here.

Photo by Gayatri Malhotra on Unsplash