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Google CEO Sundar Pichai is sworn in as he testifies during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, December 11, 2018.SAUL LOEB/Getty Images

MPs have summoned Google executives to explain its blocking of thousands of Canadians’ access to news sites through its search function and have ordered the tech giant to disclose internal e-mails, texts and documents about the strategy.

One in 25 Canadians who use Google cannot find news sites through its search bar, as it tests a potential response to the government’s online news bill, which has passed the Commons and is now in the Senate. The bill would force Google and Facebook to compensate news organizations for posting their work or linking to it.

At an emergency meeting of the Commons heritage committee on Tuesday, MPs voted to call Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai; Kent Walker, president of global affairs; Richard Gingras, vice-president of news; and Sabrina Geremia, country manager, for Google Canada, to testify for two hours before them next Monday.

The committee conceded it does not have the power to force any of the executives, except for Ms. Geremia, who is based in Toronto, to appear before the parliamentary committee as they are outside of Canada.

Liberal MP Anthony Housefather said he hoped that all the executives summoned to appear would turn up. He warned that those based in the U.S. who refuse to appear could be forced to testify if they visit Canada.

He said the internal documents, including texts or e-mails, to be delivered by Thursday, would shed light on Google’s game plan and who decided to conduct the tests in response to Bill C-18.

“We need to know at what level the decision was made and the effect they were seeking,” he told The Globe and Mail. “The contemporaneous documents will allow us to fully understand exactly what happened and allow us to know exactly what to ask witnesses.”

Shay Purdy, a spokesperson for Google, said “we’ll be responding directly to the committee.”

He has said the company is “briefly testing product responses” to Bill C-18 and that the tests, which will last for five weeks, will affect less than 4 per cent of Canadians using the search engine.

Those included in the tests have been experiencing varying degrees of limited access to news sites using Google’s search function, but can still access them by typing a web address into the browser.

NDP MP Peter Julian accused Google of attempting “to try to censor” and “block certain sites” which he said was backfiring.

“It’s time that Google executives be brought forward to explain their actions,” he said at the committee. “I deplore their actions. I think Google has acted in a very irresponsible way.”

Chris Bittle, parliamentary secretary to Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez, said the Google action was “troubling” and it was “important that we stand up for Canadians.”

Bloc Québécois MP Martin Champoux said the Google strategy seems to be “poorly thought through.”

“I want to know in short order what the real reasons are behind this operation. It smacks of intimidation and bullying rather than a business strategy,” he said.

Bill C-18 is based on a similar Australian law that made Google and Facebook pay media outlets for using their work, after the migration of advertising revenue to the tech giants.

Ms. Geremia said in an article about Bill C-18 last November that the Canadian bill “goes even further than the untested Australian model, but in the wrong direction.”

Google says the bill would subject it to a “link tax” for helping its users find news. It is concerned that Commons amendments to Bill C-18 will force it to make payments to an expanded group of media organizations, including community radio stations.

Some Canadian news organizations, including The Globe and Mail, have already made compensation agreements with big tech platforms.

Paul Deegan, president of News Media Canada, which represents the news industry, said Canadians want MPs “to demand answers from any corporation that abuses its dominant position in the marketplace.”

Marla Boltman, executive director of Friends (formerly Friends of Canadian Broadcasting), said: Canadians do not appreciate and will not tolerate big foreign tech companies like Google wielding their market dominance when they don’t get their way. We hope Ottawa takes this opportunity to send Google a clear message not to mistake Canadian kindness for weakness.”