Evidence of meeting #3 for Canadian Heritage in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was media.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Hélène Laurendeau  Deputy Minister, Department of Canadian Heritage
Jean-Stéphen Piché  Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Cultural Affairs, Department of Canadian Heritage

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

Good, so those kinds of subjective words don't fit in the law. They're not there, so I hope that happens.

There is a recommendation—and this committee heard me speak about it last time—which says that the chair, vice-chair and the seven directors for the CRTC need to live in the national capital region.

That's inflammatory and it's against what I believe is Canadian unity. I hope you look very carefully at that one because that is a problem.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Scott Simms

Mr. Shields, I'm going to have to cut it off right there. I've been rather generous.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

Thank you.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Scott Simms

Minister, you can respond, if you wish, or I can just go to the next question.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Steven Guilbeault Liberal Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Again, one of many recommendations....

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Scott Simms

Okay.

Mr. Housefather, you have five minutes, please.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Anthony Housefather Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Minister, Ms. Laurendeau, Mr. Piché, it is a pleasure to welcome you to our committee.

In the last parliament, I had the pleasure of chairing the Committee on Justice and Human Rights. In that setting, we did a study on online hate. That study was requested by a number of groups, all over Canada, specifically in the Jewish, Muslim, and gay and lesbian communities. There were a number of groups in Quebec as well as in the other provinces. We considered the broad strokes of the problem.

When we were coming out with recommendations, we came out with recommendations on education, on defining hate online, and making sure that we applied definitions across the board so we could properly track online hate. We suggested certain civil remedies that might be restored to the Canadian Human Rights Act.

One of our recommendations has found its way into your mandate letter, Mr. Minister, which relates to regulating online platforms. Now because we were doing a large study, we did not come out with specific recommendations related to monitoring online platforms. We simply said that was one of the tools we needed to use to tackle online hate.

Of course, when I'm speaking of online hate, what I'm speaking of are all of the elements that are criminalized in Canada, whether it's hate speech, solicitation of children online, etc., to encourage providers, such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc., to take this down, take it offline.

Mr. Minister, I'm going to be proposing to the committee that we do a study on this issue. I am wondering, if this committee comes forward with serious recommendations, would you consider those recommendations when making the decision on how to proceed with the work that's given to you in your mandate letter? Maybe you could also share with us how you see this issue.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Steven Guilbeault Liberal Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Thank you very much, Mr. Housefather.

The question interests me greatly. I was very pleased to see that it was one of the points in my mandate letter. I was saying earlier, in my speech, that my last book dealt with the impacts of digital, both positive and negative. I have studied this issue a lot, and what other governments around the world have done to regulate digital platforms.

Some have the idea that we are going to create a new area of law and apply it to digital, whereas what we are looking to do is use the law that we already have and find tools to apply it online.

There are things that we do not tolerate in real life, but that we tolerate on the Web. We do not yet have the means and the tools we need to respond on the Web as we would in real life.

I hope sincerely that the committee will accept your proposal. We look very favourably on being able to take sustenance from your thoughts on the matter. I do not see why we should permit digital platforms to continue keeping illegal content online, such as hate speech, radicalization, incitement to violence, child exploitation or the creation of terrorist propaganda. It is unacceptable and, in Canada, we must give ourselves the tools we need to solve those problems.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Anthony Housefather Liberal Mount Royal, QC

I completely agree with you because, in Canada, there are limits to freedom of expression, and the courts have already established that those provisions in the Criminal Code are justifiable in Canada. Those things may go beyond the freedom of expression according to the Charter and the reasonable limits mentioned in its section 1.

I am very happy with your openness, Mr. Minister. I would like to ask another question.

On a number of committees, we do studies. When we do them, we want them to be independent and we also want them to be considered by the minister responsible when we have measures to propose. Some ministers are very good and some ministers are not so good.

When the committee does studies on online hate and other matters, will you be reasonable and really read what they contain? Will you try to consider the points that the committee has raised?

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Steven Guilbeault Liberal Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Let me say two things.

First, it is important to recall what we are trying to do with digital platforms. You talked about the whole matter of freedom of expression. Our courts have very well defined the fact that freedom of expression has reasonable limits in certain cases. What is true for freedom of expression here is just as true on digital platforms. Canada is not going to take over the controls of the Web, not at all, but the reasonable limits that apply in life must also apply on digital platforms. We believe in freedom of expression just as much as we believe in net neutrality.

Second, I can tell you already that the report on the review of the Copyright Act, which the committee submitted in the last parliament, is providing my department and my team with much food for thought.

I solemnly commit before you to give the recommendations that you provide to me all the consideration they deserve, on the regulation of platforms, or on any other subject that may appear important to you.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Anthony Housefather Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Thank you very much, Mr. Minister.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Scott Simms

Thank you very much, gentlemen.

We're scheduled for another 10 minutes, but here's what we'll do. We'll start with Ms. Shin. Then, we'll go back to Mr. Louis, and then we'll end with the Bloc and NDP. We'll close it out at that, okay?

You have five minutes, Ms. Shin.

February 26th, 2020 / 4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Nelly Shin Conservative Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Okay, great.

Thank you, Minister Guilbeault, Ms. Laurendeau and Mr. Piché, for being here. I appreciate all the discourse that's been happening.

I would like to begin by creating a context. As a member of the Canadian heritage committee, one of the things I find joyful about this is that it's a unique opportunity to focus on the unity and patriotism of Canadians. I think that this dialogue and some of the things you mentioned are very critical.

On that note, I just want to make sure that, as a committee that's starting in the 43rd Parliament, we're starting with a clean slate. However, there is an issue that I find pending, especially today, talking about anti-bullying and some of the issues that Mr. Housefather brought up about free speech. It has to do with the fact that during the election, there was an issue with a lady named Manjot Bains. She responded to the media about the Prime Minister's photographs in blackface, but she felt that she had been wronged by being pressured to choose between the work she was doing on the Internet with her website as an advocate of anti-racism, and things like that.

I know it's something that you've, in a sense, inherited. You weren't part of that, but I would like to know how the minister would handle clearing the air on that. As a visible minority woman myself, some of the language, some of the descriptions used, like “gaslighting”, are very serious psychological abuse. I've experienced racism in my life, and I still experience it even as an MP. Some people don't think I'm qualified because of my colour. I would like to ask the minister how he would like to handle clearing the air on that. As a visible minority woman, it is pending for me.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Steven Guilbeault Liberal Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Thank you for the question.

Our government fundamentally believes that all humans are equal. We fundamentally believe in the need to fight racism, for lack of a better word. We have done that from very early on, and we will continue to do it.

On the specific case you're referring to, I don't have the details. As you pointed out, I wasn't there. I would ask Madam Laurendeau to comment, if she wants to.

4:40 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Canadian Heritage

Hélène Laurendeau

Very briefly, you understand there are elements that are internal to management that we cannot comment on, but I want to reassure you that the department is committed to representation. We are hiring at a very high level people of all walks of life. It's very fundamental to the mandate of the department and we're committed to that.

I'm not in a position to comment on the specifics, but I really want to reassure you that all my management team is committed to employment equity and representation and to give all the space needed for all kinds of voices coming from all kinds of backgrounds.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Steven Guilbeault Liberal Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

May I pick up on the first part of your intervention?

You used the words “focus on unity”. I think the heritage ministry, the portfolio in general and the people who take part in it are uniquely positioned to help us work on unity all across the country—arts, culture, sports, the Olympics coming up—and I think maybe our country could use a bit of a unity boost these days.

I'm very honoured to be here—I said it earlier—but I want to be an advocate for the people who are doing all those amazing things and maybe contribute, in a way, to better national unity.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Nelly Shin Conservative Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

I appreciate your words. I understand what you're saying, and I believe we live in a country that does honour diversity. It doesn't matter what colour your skin is or even what your sexual orientation is; you all have equal opportunity. These are all very important parts of our heritage.

That happened, and I know you can't release the internal information, but what can you say or do? What I take away from it is that this lady was airing her grievance and was silenced. It's that idea of silencing, again, the issue of free speech.

I think this is a unique situation. What can you do, Monsieur Guilbeault, without breaking the confidentiality of the work that you have to do internally, to externally reinforce that you don't believe in silencing people when they're airing their grievances about racism or whatever it is? Just because it's the Prime Minister or whomever, for those who go through—

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Scott Simms

Ms. Shin, I'm going to have to ask you to wrap it up very quickly.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Nelly Shin Conservative Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

For those of us who experience racism from time to time, to be silenced in our voices is very psychologically straining. I'd like to address that in seeing how the minister would resolve this issue, without disclosing the confidentiality of the internal works, but to reinforce our country's commitment.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Scott Simms

Thank you, Ms. Shin.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Steven Guilbeault Liberal Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

May I respond?

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Scott Simms

Please.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Steven Guilbeault Liberal Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

It's obvious to everybody who's looked at me that I'm very white, but I have a sister who is originally from Haiti. I was made aware of racism and the impact of racism very early on as a child, as a brother of that sister. It's not just a political issue for me as the representative of the government or as a member of a political party. It's something that hits very close to home.

I give you my assurance that as a minister I will do everything that I can to ensure that we have a safe working environment in the heritage ministry. Again, I can't comment specifically on that. I don't know if—

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Scott Simms

Thank you, Minister.

I'm going to have to cut if off right there because I'm really pushing the limit. I'm being very generous to everybody, by the way. I'm not just being very specific. The genesis of that is when the minister said he was generous with his time, so I give him credit there.

Mr. Louis, you five minutes, please.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Tim Louis Liberal Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Thank you very much for your time, Minister, Madame Laurendeau and Monsieur Piché. I appreciate it.

I also appreciate the fact that you talk about unity. I'm proud to be on the committee that represents so many sectors. I know we have a few athletes and a broadcaster, and I spoke to Ms. Shin the other day. She's a musician and I'm also a musician. We have a nice cross-section of arts and it's wonderful to see how we can work together.

I don't know, Mr. Shields, if there are other people representing. I'm sorry, I haven't met everyone yet.

Minister, you touched on something about reaching people where they are. As a musician, I'd love to make sure that our collective voice as a nation gets out. Not that long ago, radio and TV were the two ways of broadcasting, but the world is shrinking and it's opened up to everyone. That opportunity is there for so many artists and the challenges are there.

I wonder if you can comment on how Canada is opening up its digital platform and how we're getting our voices collectively out there with Canadian content getting out abroad.