NDP leader Jagmeet Singh has a golden opportunity to show that he can stand up to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau by keeping the government from removing important amendments to Bill C-11.
Hundreds of thousands of Canadians, civil liberties organizations, civil society groups and even Trudeau-appointed independent senators are telling the government to steer clear of NDP leader Jagmeet Singh has a golden opportunity to show that he can stand up to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau by keeping the government from removing important amendments to Bill C-11.
Hundreds of thousands of Canadians, civil liberties organizations, civil society groups and even Trudeau-appointed independent senators are telling the government to steer clear of filtering Canadians’ social media posts. Singh can stand with them.
Or he can rubber stamp the Trudeau government’s flawed legislation.
Bill C-11 would hand bureaucrats the power to regulate what counts as Canadian content. It would require the content bureaucrats define as Canadian to be amplified while, in effect, quieting all other content.
Under the government’s preferred version of Bill C-11, bureaucrats would be able to regulate and filter what Canadians can see in their streaming feeds and on social media.
The Senate passed Bill C-11 but made a significant change. The Senate version of the bill prevents the government from filtering Canadians’ social media posts and feeds while still leaving the regulation of streaming feeds in place.
Singh can stand up for Canadians by demanding that the Trudeau government keep this vital amendment in place.
Let’s be frank: Bill C-11 is a bad bill. It should be defeated outright.
But, at minimum, the amendment needs to stay. Singh has the power to help shape what the final bill looks like because the government relies on his support. Ensuring that the Senate’s amendment remains in place is crucial.
There is a strong consensus that Bill C-11 is dangerous. Writer Margaret Atwood has warned that the legislation will lead to “creeping totalitarianism.” Trudeau-appointed Senator David Adams Richards described the effects of the bill as a “horrid thing.” And Professor Michael Geist foresees “risks to freedom of expression that cannot be ignored.”
When the Liberals were trying to pass a very similar bill in the last parliament, Bill C-10, the government removed the part of the bill that regulated user-generated content, including social media, because of a public outcry.
For some inexplicable reason, the government brought back the regulation of user-generated content in the new Bill C-11. Even some of the bill’s key supporters in the Senate recognized this flaw. Senators Paula Simons and Julie Miville-Dechêne, who voted for the bill, inserted the amendment preventing user-generated content regulation.
But Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez, the author of Bill C-11, has publicly indicated that the Trudeau government doesn’t plan to accept the Senate’s amendment. The Trudeau government is determined to filter our social media feeds, despite opposition from hand-picked supporters in the Senate, civil liberties organizations and the public.
Enter Singh from stage left.
The NDP voted for Bill C-11 when it was first presented in the House of Commons and may be inclined to do so again. But NDP MP Gord Johns continues to insist that “the NDP has always stood up for freedom of expression” and that the party’s position on free expression wouldn’t change with Bill C-11.
If what Johns says is true, now is the time for Singh to flex his muscles and insist that the Senate amendment remain in the bill. If Singh does that, he can show that he will stand up for millions of Canadians looking to Ottawa for a voice to represent them.
The future of Canadians’ civil liberties on social media may very well be in Singh’s hands. It’s time for Singh to stand up to Trudeau and stand up for Canadians.
Jay Goldberg is the Ontario & Interim Atlantic Director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.