Industry orgs urge parties to put politics aside and pass Bill C-10

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As the public discourse around freedom of speech continues to escalate, screen sector organizations are urging cooler heads to prevail and the clause-by-clause review of Bill C-10 to resume.

Screen sector organizations are calling for calm – and a return to the clause-by-clause review of Bill C-10 – as the public discourse around freedom of expression escalates and threatens to delay or derail the legislation.

Following the Liberal’s removal of section 4.1 (a clause exempting content posted by Canadians to social media from CRTC oversight), the Conservatives and other critics of the bill have gone on the offensive with claims that its intent is to regulate user-generated content (UGC) posted to social media.

The Liberal party has said from the start that it has no intention of regulating anything posted by individuals on social media, pointing to other clauses in the bill, namely section 2.1, that would exempt UGC from regulation.

Whereas just two weeks ago the clause-by-clause review had been trotting along routinely, the dialogue around infringement on free speech has made Bill C-10 a hot-button issue and garnered a mainstream audience.

At the same time as the debate has raged online, the Heritage committee’s study of the bill has reached somewhat of an impasse.

During three Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage meetings last week, Conservative MP Rachael Harder asked for the review to be suspended and a “charter statement” be issued by the justice minister, while Julie Dabrusin, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of Canadian Heritage, called for the clause-by-clause review to continue. (Charter statements identify the potential impact that a given bill might have on rights and freedoms, as well as ensuring the rights and freedoms of Canadians are respected throughout the law-making process.)

During the Thursday meeting, the Liberal government also proposed an amendment to Bill C-10 which would put new limits on how the CRTC can regulate social media posts. The proposed amendment would allow the CRTC to issue orders relating to discoverability.

When the week’s final meeting concluded on Friday, no decision had been reached on whether the bill will paused so that it can be taken to the justice minister, or whether the clause-by-clause study will continue. The committee resumes today (May 10).

“The recent debate regarding certain sections of Bill C-10 reflects a healthy legislative process at work, and will ultimately strengthen this vital legislation for all Canadians. We urge all parties to now work collaboratively to pass this Bill,” said CMPA president and CEO Reynolds Mastin in a statement issued Friday afternoon.

“We had the opportunity to appear as one of the first witnesses in front of the Heritage Committee to explain how important this bill is for Indigenous broadcasting and Indigenous programs. We were heard respectfully by all parties. We urge them to continue on the clause by clause work to make sure that this bill becomes law without delay,” said APTN CEO Monika Ille.

Over the past two weeks, the Bill C-10 review has taken on a life of its own, with critics of the bill claiming the Liberal government is overreaching and creating a scenario that would open the door to regulation of UGC on social media. Supporters of the bill, meanwhile, say this is nothing more than political opportunism, with the Conservative party looking to stir up controversy by claiming the Trudeau government intends to censor social-media content.

The Coalition for the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (CDCE), which represents more than 40 cultural organizations including the WGC and DGC, says it “deplores the delay” of the clause-by-clause review and urged all committee members to agree to resume the study of the bill promptly.

“Without a rapid resumption of this work, the entire fate of Bill C-10 is at stake. And without the immediate implementation of this Bill, the entire Canadian cultural community will be deprived of the necessary tools that have long been called for to meet the challenges posed by the accelerated development of online platforms,” said CDCE.

Janet Yale, who headed up the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislative Review (BTLR) panel, gave her backing to the bill. A statement from Yale and a number of other former BTLR panel members said they “remain wholly satisfied that the legislation clearly targets the platform providers as online undertakings and not those that contribute content to these platforms.”

ACTRA urged all parties to “put politics aside” and “work together to pass this much-need legislation as soon as possible.”

“Bill C-10 is an overdue but positive first step in modernizing our broadcasting system – one that will benefit Canadian culture, our economy and our creators,” said ACTRA National president David Sparrow.

Elsewhere, Canadian Heritage launched an economic survey today (May 10) to understand how artists and creators have been been impacted by the pandemic. The survey, which is open until June 18, will “inform current and future Canadian Heritage policies and programs, ensuring the department continues to be responsive to the realities of the creative sector,” according to Heritage.

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