The Canadian government should license journalists and partner with international allies to create an intergovernmental policing body to monitor the internet. Those were the views expressed by CTV pundit and McGill professor Raphaël Melançon during a lecture last week. 

Melançon is a visiting scholar at McGill University and holds an Eakin Fellowship with the school. He frequently appears on CTV Montreal as a political analyst and has also written for the French outlet Les Affaires. 

In the past, Melançon served as a director of communications for Quebec’s minister of tourism and has also worked in a similar role for the federal government in 2015. 

While delivering a lecture on social media and polarization, Melançon said in response to a question on Bill C-18, the Online News Act, that an intergovernmental policing agency akin to Interpol should be set up to monitor the internet for falsehoods and enforce the legislation abroad. 

“(Bill C-18) is going to have a limited impact. There is what we can do in Canada in our jurisdiction but there’s also the fact that you have lies coming from abroad and our laws do not apply to what happens outside of our borders,” said Melançon. 

“So unfortunately we will need to work alongside our international allies, especially in Liberal democracies to ensure the same regulations are applied elsewhere and that we can prevent an act, maybe even have an international body dedicated to it as we have Interpol for instance.”

Melançon said that such a body would be “dedicated to ensuring that information propagated on the internet and social media is correct.” 

During his lecture, Melançon called for the “professionalization of journalism” via a licensing body for the media which would revoke the ability to practice the profession should they spread “fake news.” 

“At the moment in Canada anyone can pretend to be a journalist,” complained Melançon. 

“That’s exactly why we have professional orders to prevent con artists from pretending to be someone or something they are not in reality. To this day members of the press have no obligation whatsoever regarding what they write or say in media.”

He went on to say that specific outlets should be barred from newsgathering at government events.

“That to me is a problem. Should so-called journalists from partisan media such as the far-right Rebel News or the Falon Gong-controlled Epoch Times be allowed to cover government PR press conferences or should they rather be considered as activist organizations and treated like so?” he said.

Melançon said that a proposed system of journalist licensing should take into account academic background and also “past actions.”

“If you propagate fake news, you’re out,” said Melançon. 

In 2020, former heritage minister Steven Guilbeault told CTV News that the Liberal government would require media outlets to have government licenses to operate as journalists in Canada. Guilbeault eventually backed down on his statements, saying he was misunderstood. 

There are no first-world nations that mandatorily license journalists, although restrictive and authoritarian regimes such as North Korea, Saudi Arabia, China and Cuba require journalists to register with the government. 

Melançon also alleged that at a campaign rally for Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre in Montreal, he witnessed “so many trucks with confederate flags” outside. 

“I recall that when we got there I was surprised to see so many trucks with confederate flags in the parking lot, it was a pretty good sign of the reasons that brought such a large crowd inside that hotel that day,” claimed Melançon.

True North reached out to Melançon to give him an opportunity to clarify his remarks and provide comment but he did not respond to the request. 

Melançon later cited Sweden as having a “professional order” of journalists and claimed that France was also debating licensing journalists. However, neither of the two countries has mandatory licensing for reporters. 

During his lecture, Melançon said he wanted to see further regulations in Canada and internationally to “better control what can be said” online. 

“Implement regulations both in Canada and working with our international allies so that we can better control what can be said or done on the internet and can act when lies are spread publicly on these platforms without affecting freedom of speech,” said Melançon.

“And finally, (act) to prevent fake journalists from manipulating and radicalizing public opinion. The future of our democracy and the national cohesion are at stake here.”