By Tim Kalinowski on June 4, 2021.
As the contentious Heritage Committee debate continues in Ottawa surrounding the federal government’s Bill C10, Lethbridge MP and Official Opposition Critic for Digital Government Rachael Harder says many Canadians aren’t fully aware what’s at stake if the bill passes– particularly since section 4.1, which exempted social media and Internet creators from strict Canadian content laws, has now been removed.
“Bill C10 is being put through under the guise of modernizing the Broadcasting Act, but, in fact, what this bill is actually about is regulating the Internet,” says Harder.
And Harder is not alone in her concerns as several legal experts and former CRTC officials have stated that they feel the bill is a vast overreach into the individual lives of Canadians, and likely in violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which guarantees freedom of expression and the right to be heard.
Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault, buoyed by committee support for the bill from the Bloc Quebecois and the NDP, has dismissed these concerns, stating, “I mean, to think that we would somehow adopt legislation that would be counter to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, is a pure fabrication.”
However, Guilbeault has so far declined to submit the bill to outside constitutional opinions from legal experts to see if it passes the Charter test since the committee removed section 4.1. The Heritage Committee also voted down a motion from Harder earlier this year 5-4 demanding just such a legal test. The Committee also defeated Harder’s attempt to have section 4.1 reinstated to the bill just this week.
Harder says it all leaves her with one inescapable conclusion.
“The Liberals decided back in April they were going to remove that (4.1) clause,” says Harder. “When they removed that clause, they then made Canadians, their individual content they are posting online, they made that content susceptible to regulations of the bill. Which means their content will be censored. What you post on YouTube, what you post on Facebook, what you post on TikTok, will be measured according to its degree of ‘Canadianess.’ And then it will either be allowed to stand or not allowed to stand, or it will be promoted or demoted, within the network or framework of the platform on which it is posted.”
“With Bill C10 the government is going to step in and mandate that you as a Canadian be recommended videos that are ‘Canadian’ according to their definition,” she adds. “You are then limited as a viewer as to what you can and cannot access, which is wrong.”
While there is a strong voice of united opposition to Bill C10 by different sectors of Canadian society in regards to potential censorship of individual creators and users, Harder goes one step further, and wonders what is the use in having the other parts of the bill which force large streaming companies like Netflix or Disney + into paying in a Canadian content fund in the first place?
“If what we were looking at was applying the GST to these companies that are American-based, but functioning in Canada, that would be appropriate,” she muses. “They are functioning within our country, they should pay into our tax system. But what we are talking about here is requiring these companies take 30 per cent of their revenues generated from in Canada, and to put that 30 per cent into a Canadian Arts Fund.
“That arts fund actually goes toward a very niche group of artists that are stuck in the early 1990s because they haven’t managed to be competitive on new platforms. So they are very reliant on government grants in order to continue to exist. And, quite frankly, they are producing material that Canadians just don’t want. Because, at the end of the day, if Canadians did want it then there would be a market for it. And if there was a market for it then these artists would get paid based on the market.”
She feels this special interest group, many of whom originate in Quebec in her opinion, are the real drivers behind Bill C10, and that’s why the Liberals, Bloc and NDP, which are all trying to gain votes in that province, are flirting with passing a bill, likely by this fall, which will certainly face a constitutional challenge as soon as it is given Royal Assent.
“These artists are not able to make a living off of what they are producing,” she says; “so they require grants that are given to them by the government. And so these little, niche lobby groups composed of outdated artists are going to the Liberal government and asking them to charge these large streaming companies in order to bring about more money to put into these grant funds so these outdated artists can then apply for that money so they can continue to create material Canadians don’t want to watch.”
Many Canadian artists and their supporters have spoken up in favour of CanCon rules, which have allowed them to compete more equitably with international mega corporations with massive marketing budgets, to be able to produce and sell their art in Canada and abroad despite having access to fewer financial resources.
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