Madam Speaker, I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to rise after you presented the long list of amendments to all parliamentarians and the people who are watching at home. Canadians are interested in Bill C-10 and the whole saga surrounding it since its introduction.
I will not go back over all of the amendments that you just read, but I would like to talk about the key amendment, which seeks to reinstate protection for the freedom of expression of social media users. The government tried to attack freedom of expression, as many law professors and legal experts across the country have pointed out.
Before I talk about this key amendment, it is important to explain to people how we got to where we are today and why members will spend so much time this evening voting on many amendments.
The story began last November, when the Minister of Canadian Heritage introduced a bad bill in the House. Members of the House all wanted to pass legislation that would strike a balance between Canada's digital and conventional broadcasters.
Everyone put a little water in their wine. We found ways to allow all members who had concerns to have their say. This allowed us to get information from the various groups involved around the country. Some people may not know this, but the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage even unanimously agreed to form a pre-committee so as not to slow down the process at the beginning.
There was a willingness to find ways to improve this bad bill because it did not take into account the role of CBC/Radio-Canada nor the issue of copyright. There were several flaws and Canadian companies had no protection. We wanted to ensure that francophone and Canadian content was protected by certain safeguards, standards or basic criteria. There was nothing. If I remember correctly, the parties proposed more than 120 amendments, not counting the ones they added later.
Although the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons kept telling us that committees were independent, the minister, who is not supposed to interfere in committee business, suddenly decided on a Friday afternoon without warning to withdraw clause 3 entirely, which included proposed section 4.1. That removed the protection with respect to user content, including of small companies that use social media.
There is a lot of talk about YouTube, since that is something people understand. However, according to a memo from senior officials, this bill will affect all social networking platforms. Older people, and I would include myself in that group, since I have a few grey hairs, know about YouTube and TikTok, even though these networks are for younger people. However, this bill affects all of the other platforms young people use that we do not know about, such as social media games or all of the social networking tools that are not mentioned anywhere in the bill.
The real problem is that the government targeted freedom of expression. The minister and his Liberal members on the committee did everything they could to stop the Minister of Canadian Heritage and the Minister of Justice from testifying in committee and explaining why they wanted to withdraw clause 4.1. Work at the committee was stalled for two or three weeks as a result of members filibustering to force the government to explain itself and give us proof that freedom of expression was not in any jeopardy.
After three weeks, the Liberals on the committee ended up agreeing to have the ministers testify. Unfortunately, all we got was an explanatory document, not the legal opinion the motion had requested. That was yet another way the Liberals failed to honour the committee's wishes.
I think that the NDP members tried different ways of protecting freedom of expression, even if they did support Bill C-10. One NDP member, whom I am not allowed to name, but I forget the name of her riding, even suggested we work during the summer to improve this bad bill.
However, we suffered another serious blow when the government, with the support of the Bloc Québécois, which is important to point out, decided to impose time allocation for a bill whose core element was freedom of expression. Worse still, the time allocation imposed on the committee, which is supposed to be independent, was not even properly applied. The committee members, apart from those belonging to the Conservative Party, decided to reverse the decision of the committee chair, who was only reporting what the Speaker of the House had said, that members would have to vote in favour of the bill without even reading the 40-some amendments that were missing.
Therefore, we voted on the amendments one by one, without even reading them. The people who were interested in this controversial bill heard members say “yes” and “no” without even knowing what they were voting on. What a crazy story. This was completely contrary to what the Speaker and the House had decided.
In a dramatic turn of events, when the report was tabled in the House, we informed the Speaker that the committee had voted to overturn the Chair's ruling. The Chair agreed with us and overturned the 40 amendments we had voted on.
This means that we now have a bill in which some 40 amendments that attempted to correct its shortcomings were struck down after the vote. We are 48 hours away from the end of the session, and the government is trying to cram 20 or so amendments from several parties down our throats in just one hour of debate.
How will this play out? This bill will move on to the Senate. For the people who are listening to us, the Senate will not stand for this, as it is supposed to be independent. The Senate will therefore begin to study the whole matter from the beginning to make sure it was done right, because the government did not do its homework, because the government waited six years to introduce a bill, because the government did not listen to the recommendations of the various groups, because the government played partisan politics and suggested there was a war between the cultural community and freedom of expression and made the Conservatives look like the bad guys. Even members of the Green Party and the NDP spoke out against some of these tactics by the government, which, as we all know, with an election coming up in the fall, wants to play tough.
What is happening right now is really sad. We are being forced to rush votes on more than 20 amendments, some of which had already been rejected, and on the reinsertion of clause 4.1, which is the most important part. I hope my House of Commons colleagues will agree to vote in favour of that amendment at least. It will protect content created by social media users, which is what a number of former senior CRTC executives pushed for.
Law professors from several universities across the country condemned this bill. I hope people will listen to them, because we are headed for disaster. This will get hung up in the Senate, it will never get to a vote, and the legislative process will never be completed because of the fall election. The Liberals are setting us up for failure, and this will be challenged before artists can even get the help they have been asking for for so long.