Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault defended changes to the new broadcasting act at a parliamentary committee meeting, but opposition MPs expressed frustration that they’re still waiting to hear from Justice Minister David Lametti about the controversial legislation.
The Commons Heritage committee had unanimously approved a motion earlier in the week calling on Mr. Guilbeault and Mr. Lametti to attend Friday’s meeting and discuss Bill C-10, legislation that is raising concerns about possible government regulation of social media.
Only Mr. Guilbeault showed up to take questions about the bill. Mr. Lametti declined the invitation, which prompted further opposition criticism of the Liberal government’s management of the legislation. Deputy Minister of Justice Nathalie Drouin attended the meeting instead.
Committee members then extended another invitation to Mr. Lametti to attend a meeting on Tuesday or Wednesday. Late Friday, Mr. Lametti’s office said the Justice Minister will appear before the committee next week.
During Mr. Guilbeault’s appearance on Friday, he repeated his past comment that the original bill needed to be amended to ensure sites such as YouTube were still subject to the new rules when they act as broadcasters, such as by streaming music videos.
He said the new amendments recently introduced by the government state that when the federal broadcasting regulator is making orders related to social-media companies, it can only do so in three areas.
“Number one, platforms must provide information about their revenues. Number two, they must contribute financially to the Canadian cultural ecosystem. And, finally, they must increase the visibility of Canadian creators,” he said.
“We’re not targeting individuals. We’re targeting the web giants, which are almost all American companies. Our goal is simple: to get these multibillion-dollar companies that generate hundreds of millions of dollars in Canada every year to do their part to make sure our creators and artists are better paid and more visible online.”
Bill C-10, called an act to amend the broadcasting act, was originally introduced by Mr. Guilbeault in November. The legislation is meant to bring internet streaming giants under the same rules that govern traditional Canadian broadcasters, according to the government. This means that streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Spotify would have to contribute financially to Canadian production and ensure Canadian content is promoted on their sites.
In April, during a line-by-line review of the legislation, the bill was amended to remove a clause that would have excluded user-generated content from the regulations. This prompted concerns that the bill could open the door to regulation of Canadians’ social-media posts and threaten the right to freedom of expression.
The government introduced new amendments in early May that it said put these questions to rest. The text of one of these amendments is very similar to the original exclusion clause that was removed, though it is placed in a different section of the bill.
On Thursday, the Justice Department released an updated charter statement on Bill C-10, concluding that the legislation and its amendments do not infringe on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Mr. Lametti will likely face questions about this statement when he attends the committee meeting next week.
On Monday, the committee will hear from a panel of four experts, one each selected by the Conservatives, Liberals, NDP and Bloc Québécois – the four parties represented on the committee.
The experts are Janet Yale, chair of the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel; Pierre Trudel, a law professor at the University of Montreal; Andrew Cash, president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Independent Music Association; and Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa.
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