Canada’s justice and heritage ministers will be recalled to justify a change to the Broadcasting Act that critics warn could erode the rights of individual users who upload content to social media.
The Heritage committee on Monday called for Justice Minister David Lametti and Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault to address new questions about Bill C-10 at its next meeting on Friday or as soon as possible afterward.
Work of the 11-member committee has been stalled since Liberal MPs on the committee moved to cut a section of the legislation that expressly excluded user-generated content, such as a photo or statement posted to social media, from regulation.
Only Conservative MPs voted against a Liberal motion to remove Section 4.1, which was passed 7-4 on April 23 with support from New Democrat and Bloc Québécois members.
That vote — which was made as part of clause-by-clause review of Bill C-10, which will amend the Broadcasting Act to include internet platforms — quickly stirred angry protests and media commentary, with critics arguing that the change may infringe on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Guilbeault has said the protests against the bill are unwarranted and threaten to delay Bill C-10’s update to the Broadcasting Act. He says the intent of the bill is to give the CRTC power to regulate some activities of large social media platforms when they behave like broadcasters.
But the Conservatives, with some support from other opposition MPs on the committee, said the issue is important enough to get a new charter impact statement from the Justice Department.
Backbench MPs on the all-party committee agreed on Monday to a compromise that will see the two ministers to be grilled about how the change could affect individual rights to free expression.
The committee also voted to have other experts, including University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist, return next week with their analysis of what the ministers say.
Guilbeault’s parliamentary secretary, who is a member of the Heritage committee, said after Monday’s committee meeting that she welcomed an end to the Conservative-led delays.
“Additionally, we are happy to see a charter statement coming that further addresses all parties concerns that have been raised, and I look forward to seeing the content of this new statement,” MP Julie Dabrusin told reporters after the meeting adjourned.
She added that Bill C-10 has strong support from Canadian cultural industries that want big platforms to pay a share of their revenue to fund programming, as conventional broadcasters do.
The Canadian Press
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