“Midnight Madness: as Canadians slept, the Liberals, Bloc and NDP combined to pass Bill C-10.”
That is how Canadian law professor and the country’s foremost expert on law and technology, Michael Geist, described Tuesday evening’s House of Commons shenanigans that allowed the Trudeau government to ram through its controversial internet censorship law.
This comes after we saw “the government limiting debate, overruling its own committee chair, and using every available procedural manoeuvre to get the bill passed in the House of Commons,” Geist reports.
In a nutshell, C-10 attempts to take the government’s outdated cultural regulatory mechanism, the CRTC, and awkwardly apply it to the internet. This will give bureaucrats (and the partisan operatives that direct them) the power to meddle in the content you see online.
The bill seeks to regulate everything from Facebook to Netflix to Google, and potentially replace those companies’ algorithms with a government-approved one. This would allow the feds to push content they like, and hide content they don’t.
This should make all Canadians feel a bit uneasy.
It’s bad enough that woke Silicon Valley executives already tilt the playing field to suppress conservative ideas and journalism. The idea that Liberal hacks in the PMO could determine what you see and what you don’t puts Canada in uncomfortably close proximity to totalitarian China.
It turns out that Bill C-10 was just the tip of the iceberg of the Trudeau government’s plans to control what you can say and what you can see online.
Speaking at the Banff World Media Festival last week, Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault hinted that the Liberals had something far worse coming.
“Now this is going to be controversial. People think that C-10 was controversial. Wait until we table this legislation,” he said, doing his best impression of a Bond villain.
Lo and behold, less than 24 hours after the Liberals rammed through C-10, Justice Minister David Lametti tabled C-36, a bill to crack down on so-called “hate propaganda, hate crimes and hate speech” online.
Lametti tabled the last minute bill on Wednesday, which among other things, proposes to reinstate the much-maligned provision in the Canadian Human Rights Act, Section 13.
Scrapping Section 13 was one of the crowning achievements of the Harper government.
Trudeau’s new hate speech bill would bring it back, and make it illegal to use the internet to “communicate or cause to be communicated hate speech…in which the hate speech is likely to foment detestation or vilification of an individual or group of individuals on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.”
As always, the devil is in the details.
Hate speech, a vaguely defined term, is already illegal in Canada. This bill seeks to expand the government’s power to crack down on messages and comments they don’t like, based on subjective and ill-defined criteria.
Perhaps worst of all is the mechanism that could be used to pull down content the government doesn’t like. Bill C-36 gives the Canadian Human Rights Commission the power to compel citizens to cease online communication or pay a monetary fine.
Compelling Canadians to remove content under threat of a fine (or worse) is only part of what Trudeau has already told us is his ultimate goal.
After Trudeau won a minority election in 2019, his mandate letter to Heritage Minister Guilbeault laid out his top priorities.
In that letter, Trudeau ordered the government to: “create new regulations for social media platforms, starting with a requirement that all platforms remove illegal content, including hate speech, within 24 hours or face significant penalties.”
Removing content the Liberals do not like, within 24 hours no less, erases any possibility for due process or appeal. It allows the government to play judge and jury, and compel technology companies to do their dirty work.
These internet censorship laws have no place in a free and open society.