BY BOB ZIMMER
Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies MP
I have heard from many of you locally, as well as from Canadians across the country, who are deeply concerned about the Liberal government’s efforts to regulate freedom of speech online.
I am too.
As one of the founders of the International Grand Committee, a group of Parliamentarians from around the world who meet to discuss the issues surrounding the role social media platforms play in our democracies, I have always stressed the importance of ensuring that our fundamental right to freedom of speech is protected.
At a recent meeting of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, the Liberals shockingly voted to remove a section of one of their own Bills that protects individual users, and instead supported sweeping government powers to regulate Canadians on the internet, including their activity on apps and social media platforms like YouTube and Facebook.
This is an unprecedented attack on Canadians’ freedom of speech.
As Dr. Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa and Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law, explains: “The government believes that it should regulate all user generated content, leaving it to the regulator to determine on what terms and conditions will be attached to the videos of millions of Canadians on sites like YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and hundreds of other services.”
Not long ago the Heritage Minister testified at committee that “as a legislator, I’m not particularly interested when my step-uncle posts pictures of his cats on YouTube or Facebook. This is why we’ve excluded user-generated content from the regulation.”
If that were truly the case, then why have the Liberals now removed that exemption from Bill C-10?
Peter Menzies, a former commissioner for the CRTC, has called this move “a full-blown assault” on freedom of expression and “the foundations of democracy.”
Even before the changes were made at committee, experts were sounding the alarm about Bill C-10. This includes former CRTC commissioner Timothy Denton who wrote in March that the bill is “clearly intended to allow speech control at the government’s discretion.”
As a staunch defender of freedom of speech in Canada, I am deeply troubled by the direction this government is taking when it comes to your right to free expression, especially given that the Heritage Minister has also signalled that the Liberals will be introducing further legislation to regulate online content.
Rest assured, Conservatives will strongly oppose C-10 at every stage of the legislative process, and I will continue to stand up for the freedoms of Canadians who post their content online.
As Dr. Geist wrote, “by removing the user generated content exclusion, Bill C-10 represents an unconscionable attack on the free expression rights of Canadians. It must be defeated.”