A Liberal MP says the federal government is “just shy of the finish line” in passing legislation that will regulate the content Canadians can view online by requiring major online streaming platforms to contribute to Canadian content rules.
Speaking to MPs in the House on March 8, Liberal MP Chris Bittle, who is also the parliamentary secretary to Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez, said the government is very close to passing Bill C-11 into Canadian law.
“We have arrived at this point, just shy of the finish line, thanks to the contributions and hard work of parliamentarians, public servants, industry experts, content creators, and Canadians,” he said, as first reported by Blacklock’s Reporter.
Bill C-11, also known as the Online Streaming Act, will give the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) regulatory authority over the content available to Canadian viewers on platforms like YouTube, Spotify, and Netflix.
The Senate recently passed the bill back to the House of Commons with a number of amendments—many of which the federal government has rejected, including one aimed at protecting individual creators who upload videos on YouTube.
Bittle said if C-11 is given royal assent, the Governor in Council will issue a policy directive to the CRTC explaining how the new legislative framework “should be applied.”
Bittle said this would require a minimum 30-day notice period, during which stakeholders could “provide comments, concerns and recommendations regarding policy direction.”
The bill’s stated objective is to promote authentic Canadian content for viewers within the country, but some critics have said the bill’s definition of Canadian content is poor, and the bill too far-reaching.
“I do not know who will be able to tell me what Canadian content is and what it is not, but I know it won’t be in the Minister of Heritage’s power to ever tell me,” said New Brunswick Sen. David Adams Richards during a Senate debate on the bill on Jan. 31.
Richards also expressed concern that the bill would bring about a culture of censorship of Canadians.
“This law will be one of scapegoating all those who do not fit into what our bureaucrats think Canada should be,” Richards said.
“Stalin again will be looking over our shoulder when we write.”
The U.S. government previously expressed concern that the legislation will “discriminate” against American companies, while representatives from large streaming platforms like Disney and Spotify have said the bill’s definition of Canadian content needs to be broadened.
One of the Senate’s proposed amendments to Bill C-11 would’ve removed user-generated content on social media and open-creator platforms like YouTube from the CRTC’s regulating jurisdiction, but Rodriguez rejected the amendment on March 7.
Government House leader Mark Holland told reporters in Ottawa on March 9 that he believes the bill will now receive “broad support” in the House and will be accepted by the Senate.
Conservatives have voiced strong opposition to the legislation, with MP Rachel Thomas saying in the House on March 8 that it will impact all Canadians who have “a cellphone, a television or a computer in their home and who enjoys online streaming.”
“That is how big this legislation is. That is how dramatic its impact would be,” she said.
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