Evidence of meeting #31 for Canadian Heritage in the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was amendments.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Scott Simms

Yes. I think we're in a position now where we're all familiar with each other enough to police ourselves and the language we use. We know there has been several rulings in the House of Commons about unparliamentary language. Let's be careful with that, please. Try to be respectful.

Thank you for the intervention, Mr. Housefather.

Ms. Harder, the floor is still yours.

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Chair, I would withdraw my language and I would say it seems that the honourable members are attempting to mislead the Canadian public and those who are at this committee table.

What has been said is that they wish to make this legislation “crystal clear”, but before that they said it already was crystal clear. I don't know how it can already be crystal clear, and they need to bring forward amendments to make it crystal clear. Those two things don't jibe. They don't come together. They can't both stand and be equally true.

That being the case, my point, Mr. Chair, is that we now have a commitment from the member who brought forward this motion. That commitment would be that we're going to go through this clause by clause. At the end of that, we're going to seek a charter statement. Then, at the end of that, we can make changes if we want to.

I haven't been provided any sort of reason to trust that. According to our standing orders, once a clause is carried, it can only be revisited with unanimous consent. If we decide to go back to those clauses and attempt changes to strengthen this legislation, it is very easy for the Liberal members at this table to withhold their consent. If they do that, they hold veto power and holding veto power then means this legislation would have to move forward in its flawed form.

I'm not okay with that, but more importantly, Canadians are not okay with that. They've spoken out and stated that they wish for their charter rights to be protected, which again is why that charter statement is so important to have from the very beginning. I think the fact that we would keep that from happening—that we would not pursue that statement or seek that legal opinion—puts us at a huge disadvantage as members of this committee. Again, further to that, it puts the Canadian public at a huge disadvantage.

Rather than seeking to protect the Canadian public's rights and freedoms, I believe we would be acting in a manner that puts them in jeopardy. I believe that opinion is necessary now, before we continue. It will help us to strengthen this legislation and protect their charter rights, particularly under section 2(b).

Further to that, I'm not the only one who is saying these things. Yesterday, I made a statement with regard to what experts are saying. Of course, they are raising significant concerns with this legislation and they want their voices to be heard.

Now that was yesterday, and I think, Ms. Dabrusin might say, “Well, that was yesterday”, but now there are some amendments suggested that might be brought forward. They aren't yet on the table. They aren't being considered in any way but they've been suggested. Those amendments, it has been suggested by—

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dabrusin Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

I have a point of order, Mr. Chair.

As a point of clarification, there was an amendment that was moved yesterday and that was on the floor.

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Scott Simms

That is correct, Ms. Dabrusin.

Ms. Harder, it was G-11.1. That was one of the amendments that she suggested. That's what was in discussion when we adjourned yesterday.

Ms. Harder, you have the floor.

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Thank you.

There have been a number of articles written with regard to the suggested amendment. In those articles, there have been interviews that have been done by Dr. Geist, former CRTC commissioner Peter Menzies, who has been quoted, and others who have long-standing careers in looking at these things very closely and being able to offer credible opinions.

One particular article or post that was put out by Dr. Michael Geist says the following:

Last night at a somewhat strange Canadian Heritage committee meeting, Liberal MP Julie Dabrusin brought forward the promised amendment. Only rather than confirming that the content that people upload on social media won’t be considered as programming under the Broadcasting Act, it does precisely the opposite. First, the new amendment does not restore the Section 4.1 exception that had been touted as a safeguard against regulating user generated content.

It does not bring back that protection. He continues:

Second, not only does the regulation of user generated content remain in place—

In other words, a direct infringement on our rights and freedoms....

—but the amendment confirms the CRTC regulatory powers, including a new power specifically designed for social media.

It is interesting. This committee was led to believe, and the Canadian public was led to believe, that these amendments would somehow bring further clarification and further protection, but actually, Dr. Geist is saying that the opposite is true. He's actually saying that the new powers are specifically designed to help social media content be regulated even further.

Mr. Chair, I understand that I cannot say outright that the member is trying to mislead the Canadian public or that the Prime Minister is outright trying to mislead the Canadian public, but I can say that, based on what I'm reading, based on the evidence, it would sure seem that this is the case. I find that troublesome. I find that very troublesome.

I find it very troublesome that we would be told that amendments are coming forward to help make this crystal clear, but—don't forget—it didn't even need those amendments. It was perfectly fine before. Nevertheless, there were amendments brought forward in order to make it crystal clear, and those crystal clear amendments seem to be making it more muddy than ever.

This is a mess, and those aren't actually even my words. Those are the worlds of experts. Dr. Geist is asking that this bill be totally kiboshed and that we do a redo.

He goes on to say the following:

In other words, rather than backing down in the face of public criticism, the government is doubling down on its Internet regulation plans.

Again, this is Dr. Michael Geist. He is an expert in this area. I learn a lot from him. He helps me understand this legislation. I'm very thankful for him because it is certainly complicated. I can see where members of this committee and the Canadian public might find it difficult to comprehend all of the language within this bill as it exists, as well as the amendments that are brought forward. However, I believe that it's important then to turn to experts such as Dr. Michael Geist and to rely on the information they provide.

What he is saying is that these regulations, the amendments that have been brought forward, would allow—not just allow but actually insist—that social media platforms prioritize some content over others.

In other words, the government will direct the CRTC, which will direct social media platforms to give preference to some content over others. If you like dogs, dog videos get to stay on. If you don't like cats, the cat videos have to go. Maybe you don't really care for a policy that's brought forward by the Liberal Party of Canada. We don't want you speaking out about that, so that video has to come down. Maybe you want to hear people talk about the importance of planting poplar trees, so you let that video stand.

I understand that one of the honourable members in particular is laughing at this, but I don't know that this is laughable. I don't know that it's laughable to attack the charter rights of Canadians, to impose upon them a regulatory measure that would only allow certain material to remain standing and insist that other material be taken down.

I don't know that Canadians think that's funny. I think they value their charter rights. I think, in particular, they—

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Anthony Housefather Liberal Mount Royal, QC

I have a point of order. I have two, Mr. Chair.

Number one, this is the second time that Ms. Harder referred to members allegedly doing something. As we know, only the speaker is on the screen, Mr. Chairman. I don't believe that you are allowed to refer to what people may or may not be doing when they're not visible to the public. That's number one.

Number two, I've been listening very carefully to my colleague. While she's making comments about the bill—and she's very welcome to make comments about the bill—she has not spoken to the amendment or the motion on the floor in particular for 11 minutes now. I do believe that no matter how far you allow people to stray, Mr. Chairman, this is going quite far.

Thank you, sir.

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Scott Simms

Ms. Harder, yes, on point number one, that is true. When it comes to the House of Commons, we don't like to point out that people are either present or not within the context of the meeting that is here. Now, in a virtual world, sometimes these rules get changed as we move along. I would ask that people refrain from doing that as a common courtesy, as much as it is part of the new procedures in this virtual world.

On the second point, yes, as Mr. Housefather points out, I am one who allows a field of flexibility that is probably more than any other chair. However, Ms. Harder, he does have a point about the time that has been consumed thus far. If you could veer back towards the motion and that field of focus, it would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much.

Ms. Harder, you have the floor.

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Thank you, Chair.

Again, I would contend that it is unhelpful, possible but unhelpful, to consider the motion that has been brought forward without understanding the greater context of the bill. After all, the motion is being brought forward in reference to the bill, the legislation. The fact that all of my points have been directly related to Bill C-10, I believe, puts me on the right track and within the confines of what this is all about.

I'll go back to Dr. Geist because, like I said, I think he has some very helpful things for us to consider. He goes on to say:

The amendments establish some limitations on regulation that restrict what the CRTC can do with regard to user generated content, but the overall approach is indeed “crystal clear.”

He goes on to explain what that crystal clear looks like. He says:

User generated content is subject to CRTC regulation under Bill C-10 with the result that the content of millions of Canadians’ feeds on TikTok, Instagram, and Youtube will now be CRTC approved as it establishes conditions to mandate discoverability of Canadian content.

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Marci Ien Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

I have a point of order, Mr. Chair.

Yes, I'm just making sure that we are sticking to the motion. I thought you made it clear that was the route we were going to take. I'm just making sure that's what we're doing. It doesn't seem that way to me.

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Scott Simms

As I said before, let's get back within the field range of what this is about.

Ms. Harder, you have the floor, please.

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Let me revisit the motion here. I'll just read it out loud so that we all understand what we're talking about and I can also refresh my own memory. It says:

That the Committee:

1) Will consider all amendments proposed on Bill C-10 and should points 2 and 3 below not have been completed at the time the amendments on the Bill have all been considered, the Committee will pause in its deliberations and not dispose of the Bill until points 2 and 3 below have been completed.

2) Ask the Minister of Justice to provide a revised Charter statement on Bill C-10

Good. We're talking about Bill C-10. That's good.

—as soon as possible, focusing on whether the Committee's changes to the Bill related to programs uploaded by users of social media services have impacted the initial Charter statement provided—

We're talking about social media use. We're talking about the regulation of those programs. We're talking about a charter statement. Got it.

—in particular, as it relates to Section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

That's great. We're talking about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms too.

3) Invite the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Canadian Heritage accompanied by relevant department officials to appear before the Committee as soon as possible—

I love that language. It's so descriptive and precise.

—to discuss the revised Charter statement and any implications of amendments made by the Committee to the Bill.

4) Shall take all votes necessary to dispose of the Bill—

Now interestingly enough, “all votes necessary” would mean basically just one vetoed vote after another.

—once points 2 and 3 are completed and all amendments have been considered.

Good. I've refreshed my memory, I now understand the scope of this amendment and I believe that everything I have talked about thus far still fits within this amendment, so I will proceed.

Dr. Geist.... I'm sorry, folks. I got interrupted. I'm going to start over.

In his statement, he said:

The amendments establish some limitations on regulation that restrict what the CRTC can do with regard to user generated content, but the overall approach is indeed “crystal clear.” User generated content is subject to CRTC regulation under Bill C-10 with the result that the content of millions of Canadians’ feeds on TikTok, Instagram, and Youtube will now be CRTC approved as it establishes conditions to mandate—

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Anthony Housefather Liberal Mount Royal, QC

On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, I believe we've had this discussion before.

While it was very nice that Ms. Harder read out my amendment and said some nice things about the precision of the wording, I believe she's now back on Mr. Geist's comments about the bill itself, not the amendment. I really would invite you, Mr. Chairman, to ask her to please speak to the amendment and not to Mr. Geist's comments on the bill.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Scott Simms

Yes, as was pointed out, Ms. Harder, if Dr. Geist has anything in particular to say about the motion that is in front of you, I have no doubt we'd love to hear it, but it has to be at the very least tangential to it, if not connected to it.

Thank you very much. You have the floor.

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Again, the motion that has been put forward has to do with Bill C-10 and it has to do with whether or not we are going to continue to consider it in its current state and then, at the end, ask for a charter statement, or if we are going to vote this down and go with the amendment that I've proposed, which is to stop this imminently and seek that statement now. Perhaps we are going to go with neither of those motions. Perhaps there's a different motion that someone else would like to bring forward, or perhaps we'll just continue as if there is no motion at all.

Again, it is impossible to talk about this motion and my position on this motion, which I believe is what this debate is all about...allowing me to state my position and to try to rally support. It is impossible to do that without actually diving into Bill C-10. It would be irresponsible of me.

In order to make an educated decision, it is important to consider the things that experts are saying, so that's what I'm doing. I'm providing context and I'm making my argument, stating my position, which I believe, as an elected member of Parliament, I am permitted to do.

Of course, I believe I am also permitted—although this might be censored as well, soon, but I don't think it is yet—to use the words of another and to quote him in my statement.

Dr. Geist makes it really clear, then, that the content of millions of Canadians—the things that they post on TikTok, YouTube and Instagram—would in fact be regulated. That content would be mandated to discoverability criteria, which then would allow for some content to be prioritized over other content.

Again, that's a problem. It's a problem because it allows some values to be set at a higher place than others, which is an imposition on people's freedom.

If we were to seek a charter statement, it would allow us to understand the implications of the bill as it stands.

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Marci Ien Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

I have a point of order, Mr. Chair.

Again I'm just looking at the parameters of this and at staying within those parameters, Mr. Chair, and making sure that we're doing so.

Thank you.

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Scott Simms

Thank you.

Ms. Harder, I notice that section 2 of this particular motion says “particularly as it relates to section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms” and so on and so forth.

Yes, I understand what Dr. Geist had to say and about the charter, but you need to tie both of those ideas into this particular motion.

You have the floor.

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Thank you.

I'm not sure how it could be more directly related to the bill than when I'm talking about the results of our moving forward at a rapid pace versus rolling it down and seeking a charter statement now.

That's the statement that I was making when I was interrupted by the member. I'm sorry. I'm just not sure how I could be more in line with what this motion is about. I think that's the entirety of the motion.

I'm happy to go back and read it again, if that would be beneficial, but I think there's probably no one here who would like me to do that, so I'll just continue with making the points I was making before.

If we move forward with this bill, if we move forward with the legislation as it stands now, it would mean that in Canada the Internet is regulated to a greater extent than in any other country in the world.

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Anthony Housefather Liberal Mount Royal, QC

On a point of order, the Internet's being regulated to the greatest extent in the world has nothing to do with the motion before us, which is a procedural motion as to how the committee should proceed.

I respectfully would say that had we moved forward and canvassed the members, we could have voted both on my motion and then, if it failed, on Ms. Harder's by this point. This is purely a filibuster, Mr. Chairman, and she's straying so far from the—

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Scott Simms

Mr. Housefather, before we get into a matter of debate, which is where we have drifted, let's also realize that there's flexibility within the preamble of what she's saying, and she's linking it to the motion. I think she started out on something rather new, but I do not want to presuppose where people are going in their logic. Goodness knows mine goes madly off in different directions on occasion.

I'm going to give some leeway at the beginning of her thoughts to tie it all together. If she doesn't, I will look for her to do just that.

Thank you, Mr. Housefather.

Ms. Harder, you have the floor.

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Thank you.

It is contended that there is good reason for not regulating the content that individuals post online, because it does implicate freedom of expression and raises a ton of questions with regard to how these social media companies will determine what content should be prioritized over others.

For this bill to put power into the hands of the CRTC to regulate social media platforms—

May 7th, 2021 / 1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Lyne Bessette Liberal Brome—Missisquoi, QC

I have a point of order, Mr. Chair.

I think a debate gives different individuals an opportunity to express their opinions and make arguments. So I do not think we are having a debate right now. Perhaps we should see it that way.

Thank you.

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Scott Simms

Was that to clarify why we're having a debate, Madam Bessette? Did I hear that correctly?

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Lyne Bessette Liberal Brome—Missisquoi, QC

No. I will say it in English. I said that I'm not seeing this as a debate, because there's only one person speaking. A debate is multiple people giving their opinions on different arguments.

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Scott Simms

Madam Bessette, Ms. Harder has the floor.

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Lyne Bessette Liberal Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Okay.