That Bill C-11 be amended by deleting Clause 4.
Madam Speaker, considering the current trend of the current government, I certainly do not take it for granted that I am able to stand in this place and freely deliver a speech in the House of Commons, particularly when I am critiquing government legislation.
Bill C-11 would put the CRTC in charge of regulating the Internet. That is what we are discussing today. Former CRTC commissioners and other qualified critics have spoken to this legislation and have made it clear that it is an overreach and a violation of Canadians’ right to freedom of expression.
From the beginning, I have been a vocal opponent of this bill and I have laid out my case for that. However, today I will remind Canadians and this House of the concerns I hold, shared by colleagues on this side of the House. Because of my outspoken nature on this bill, I have been ridiculed, criticized and even called names by those across the way. That has been hurtful and it has been harmful, but I have proceeded. The reason for this is that I am not elected to serve the government. I am not elected to make sure its legislation gets through. I was put here by Canadians for Canadians, and it is with them in mind that I stand in this place. It is with them in mind that I also fight against this incredibly draconian and regressive piece of legislation that attacks their charter rights as Canadians.
There are two things I wish to address today: one, the process that was followed with this legislation; and two, the content.
Let us start with the process. I would be remiss if I did not mention the travesty that took place this past Tuesday. While most Canadians were sleeping, the members of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage met and were forced to vote on amendments without them being read into the public record, which simply means that numbers were given and members were asked to vote. The public was unsure of what we were voting on and what it meant for them. There was zero transparency. There was no debate, no discussion and no questions. “Just shut up and vote” was the message given. The process was cloaked in secrecy and was an inexcusable assault on democracy. Having been forced through the committee, the bill is now before the House and will soon be forced on to the Senate.
Let me dive into the content of this bill. The heritage minister has been extremely misleading. He has told Canadians that more government control over Internet content will somehow promote Canadian culture and help artists. This could not be further from the truth.
My Conservative colleagues and I have met with industry experts and with digital-first creators, those who produce content for TikTok, YouTube, etc., and they have dispelled these myths. I would like to use their voices here today in order to defend their cause.
Oorbee Roy, known as Aunty Skates on TikTok, is a 47-year-old South Asian woman from Toronto. She made it clear that her success is based on freedom and not control. She said:
That I'm not the right fit is a story I've been told my whole life. I'm too brown. I'm a nerd. I'm too old. I'm female. I'm not feminine enough. I'm not the right demographic, but I've never been the right demographic. My voice has been suppressed far too many times. That's not an easy thing to do, because I have a pretty loud voice.
Somehow along the way, I discovered a platform that allows me to tell my story as I see fit in my own voice. Other people are indeed interested in my story. Somehow this tall, brown, old and somewhat-out-of-shape mom who skateboards resonates with people all over the globe. Authentic, inspiring, genuine content—that's Canadian content.
Canadian YouTuber Lilly Singh explained it best when she said, “For Canadian creators who don't fit the mainstream mould, the openness of YouTube provides the opportunity to find their niche among billions of people.” Again, freedom is what leads to success.
Morghan Fortier, co-owner and CEO of Skyship Entertainment, said, “We've seen first-hand that, when barriers are removed and Canadians are given equal, free access to an open platform and a global audience, they can take on the world. For Canadian creators, YouTube is a level playing field on a world stage. It doesn't matter who you know or what you look like. Any Canadian with an idea and a smart phone can be a creator and find an audience on YouTube.” She went on to say, “If this bill passes as written, the CRTC could determine what content should be promoted in Canada through discoverability obligations.... This approach puts the regulator between viewers and creators, handing the CRTC the power to decide who wins and who loses.”
If Bill C-11 passes through the Senate, it will not create a level playing field. Instead, many digital-first creators will be harmed as the government, through the CRTC, picks winners and losers. Not only that, but, in the name of protection, the CRTC will build a wall around digital-first creators, and this wall will actually prevent them from being able to reach a global audience, which is what they depend on for their success. We should know that our Canadian digital-first creators are amazing and they are achieving tremendous success around the world. Their success, however, will be severely thwarted by the bill.
Scott Benzie, from Digital First Canada, explained:
The bill has the intent of promoting Canadian content to Canadians. While that's admirable, most Canadian creators do not care solely about the Canadian market. The platforms are built for global discovery.... [L]ocal discovery...is a recipe for failure and jeopardizes successes like the indigenous creator renaissance on TikTok, Canadian musicians seeing global recognition and the world-class gaming industry.
Let us talk further. Let us talk about freedom and choice, values that all Canadians hold dear. Right now, virtual codes, known as algorithms, are set up on the Internet to show Canadians more content that they love. Personal choice is honoured in this process. Bill C-11 would change that. Instead of using algorithms to give individuals more of what they want, the government will insist that YouTube and TikTok and Google use algorithms to give more of what the government wants Canadians to see. It is incredibly dictatorial. It is dangerous.
Jeanette Patell, from YouTube, explained:
Bill C-11 could deeply hurt Canadian creators and viewers [in other words, all Canadians]. For viewers who rely on us to serve them content that is relevant to their interests, artificially forcing an open platform like YouTube to recommend content based on government priorities would backfire.
Matthew Hatfield, from OpenMedia, gave a great analogy:
We would never consider a situation where the Canadian government would go to Canadian bookstores and say, “We've thought about what Canadians need, and these are the types of titles we want you to put in your front window.” However, through the discoverability requirements we have in this legislation, that seems to be what we're doing.... It's inappropriate. It's an overreach. If we're supporting Canadian content, it needs to be in ways that are respectful of and responsive to what people in Canada want.
Let us be very clear. The bill is not about protecting culture. It is about giving the government more control over public discourse, the things that we can see, post and hear online. To have a government agency regulate the dissemination of information online puts Canada in step with places like North Korea, China, Iran, and Russia.
The current chair of the CRTC, Mr. Ian Scott, has confirmed that this is the case. He has said that user-generated content, in other words our content, my content, anybody’s content, will be wrapped up in the bill, but then he goes on to say not to worry, because even though he is given those wide-sweeping powers, he will not use them and we should just trust him. If he is asking us to trust him, why not just take those provisions out of the bill?
That is exactly what these amendments would do. We are asking that those powerful provisions that allow for an abuse of power be taken out of this bill and that Canadians be respected.
The best way to promote Canadian culture is through the protection of free speech. Giving Canadians the freedom to create, express their views, and speak freely is what supports the proliferation of our rich Canadian culture. Our culture is held within the Canadian people, all of them. However, the government has grown far too comfortable with taking control.
As I come to my conclusion here, I wish to thank all of the digital-first creators who weighed in and expressed their views. I also wish to thank the industry experts and the freedom advocates who worked tirelessly to expose the danger of this legislation. I want to thank the thousands upon thousands of Canadians who have had their voices heard. It is for them that I contend today.