Amended Bill C-10 is in compliance with Charter of Rights, says Department of Justice

Unsplash - social media
The amended bill does not raise concerns around freedom of speech, according to the review, as Minister of Canadian Heritage Steven Guilbeault and an expert panel including Janet Yale and Michael Geist prepare to go before the committee.

Following a second Charter review, the Department of Justice has said that the amended version of Bill C-10 does not violate or infringe upon freedom of speech.

A statement issued yesterday (May 13) by Minister of Justice David Lametti said the bill contained sufficient and appropriate limits on the CRTC’s ability to regulate user-generated content.

The statement said the amended bill, by virtue of section 2.1, means “unaffiliated users of social media services would not be subject to broadcasting regulation in respect of the programs they post.”

The Justice minister also pointed to the fact that the CRTC is itself subject to the Charter, “and must therefore exercise any discretionary powers it has in a manner that is consistent with the Charter.” The statement added that the CRTC “must proportionately balance the objectives of the [Broadcasting] Act with the protection of freedom of expression in light of the facts and circumstances.

Critics of the bill have said the updated Charter statement does not address the free-speech concerns in the bill.

The approval of the amended bill by the Justice department is a win for the Liberal government, as Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault prepares to go before the Heritage committee this afternoon to discuss the piece of proposed legislation in the context of freedom of expression and how it deals with user-generated content.

Also present for the meeting will be members of the Department of Justice, including Nathalie G. Drouin, deputy minister of Justice and deputy attorney general of Canada, and Sarah Geh, director general, Human Rights Law Section.

On Monday, the line-by-line review of Bill C-10 was temporarily suspended after the committee voted in favour pausing the study in order to obtain a new Charter statement and hear from Guilbeault, the Department of Justice and a panel of experts.

That panel of experts is scheduled to go before the committee on Monday (May 17) and will consist of: Michael Geist, Canada research chair in internet and e-commerce law, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa; Pierre Trudel, professor, Public Law Research Centre, Université de Montréal; Janet Yale, chair of the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislative Review (BTLR) panel; and Andrew Cash, president and CEO of the Canadian Independent Music Association.

The second Charter review came after weeks of controversy stemming from the Liberals’ decision to remove clause 4.1 – which exempted content posted by Canadians to social media from CRTC oversight – prompting the Conservatives and others to raise questions of whether the bill could open the door to regulation of user-generated content.

The Liberals’ rationale for removing section 4.1 was that it would ensure the CRTC had the ability to request (among other regulations) contributions from a platform like YouTube when professional content is uploaded by its users. The Liberals also contended that section 2.1 already exempts user-generated content as it states that individuals who upload content on social media platforms aren’t considered broadcasters.

At a press conference taking place after the Justice department’s decision on the bill, Conservative leader Erin O’Toole said that the party would repeal the bill and introduce a new way of regulating foreign-based digital platforms if it is elected.

Image: Unsplash