A Canadian business advocacy group is asking parliament to trash a Bill C-18 motion that would expose communications between private Canadians and tech giants.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce, which represents more than 200,000 businesses, wrote a protest letter to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. The letter said an upcoming motion – seeking to compel Meta and Google to release private communications with Canadians – is undemocratic.
“The motion, which was disclosed only last Thursday by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, poses a serious threat to the privacy of Canadians and to their rights to hold and express opinions on public issues,” the statement said.
The Chamber argued that parliament is trying to intimidate Canadian opponents of Bill C-18. This is by threatening that private communications – such as emails sent to Meta – would be scrutinized publicly, subjecting opponents to any kind of direct or indirect repercussions for their privately expressed views.
The group said parliament’s motion would set a dangerous precedent, paving the way for future governments to intimidate critics. This is especially worrying, the Chamber said, because last week’s C-18 example was politically biased.
“The motion is directed only at the opponents of the bill, whom it accuses of ‘intimidation and subversion tactics,’ the letter wrote. “Is the government prepared to apply the same disclosure standards to itself and to supporters of the bill, who have a direct and substantial interest in its passage?”
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce is not alone in criticizing parliament. University of Ottawa law professor, Michael Geist, said things are getting political.
“The intent seems fairly clear,” Geist wrote on Substack. “[Threaten] guilt by association for anyone who dares to communicate with these companies.”
Geist said parliament wants to use fodder from Canadians’ private communications to selectively attack critics, discrediting opposition voices and helping to get Bill C-18 passed.
The move would also set an example to other Canadians, he said: that their participation in public policy is not welcome.
As True North reported, Bill C-18 would require tech giants to pay royalties to Canadian journalists when news is hosted on sites like Facebook or Instagram.