Bill C-11 expands CRTC’s control over the internet, igniting fears free speech will be curtailed

Brian GiesbrechtThe Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has long been known as the regulator of Canadian content. However, with the introduction of Bill C-11, the CRTC’s role is expanding to encompass control over the internet and the online activities of Canadians.

This audacious attempt by the federal government to exert authority over the digital landscape has raised concerns about freedom of expression and the potential for Orwellian social control.

The proposed legislation grants the CRTC, along with government-appointed members, significant power to dictate what Canadians can access online and determine which news organizations are considered “credible.” This move has sparked widespread debate and court challenges, as many individuals, including Ezra Levant of Rebel News, believe it represents a dangerous encroachment on personal liberties akin to social control mechanisms employed by authoritarian regimes.

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One fundamental question arises amidst this controversy: Are the CRTC’s efforts to promote “Canadian values” even relevant in a post-national state, as declared by our own Prime Minister? If Canada lacks a core identity, how can “Canadian values” be effectively promoted?

It appears that the Trudeau government’s true objective is not to ensure access to Canadian cultural productions or music but rather to control the dissemination of information and limit exposure to views deemed “unacceptable.” The newly empowered CRTC, under government influence, aims to curate an online environment that aligns with the government’s definition of “acceptable views.”

This approach becomes evident when considering Trudeau’s response to the truckers’ convoy protest, where he questioned the need to tolerate those with “unacceptable views.” Such sentiments, coupled with the government’s invocation of the Emergency Act, reflect a growing tendency to suppress dissenting opinions. With the CRTC being just the first of several government-controlled bodies set to regulate the internet, including bills such as C-18, C-36, and The Online Harms Act, concerns about authoritarian censorship and the disappearance of information intensify.

Bill C-18 aims to compel internet giants like Facebook to comply with government demands and pay for content that was previously freely accessible. Consequently, the availability of information may be curtailed if these giants refuse to comply. Bill C-36, on the other hand, introduces the concept of “online hate,” granting the government the power to prosecute individuals for expressing views it deems unacceptable, even if no criminal offence has been committed. This legislation allows for the prosecution of “thoughtcrimes,” a disturbing concept reminiscent of George Orwell’s dystopian vision.

The proposed Online Harms Act, which establishes a Digital Safety Commissioner, further compounds concerns. This illiberal and authoritarian piece of legislation has no place in a liberal democracy. While regulation may be necessary, the bill’s current form grants excessive control over online discourse, stifling freedom of expression and undermining the principles of a free and open society.

These complex and convoluted pieces of legislation require scrutiny and public engagement. It is essential to stay informed, engage with elected representatives, and support legal challenges, such as those initiated by Ezra Levant, to safeguard our freedom and democratic values.

Passive reliance on the assumption that our best interests are being protected risks transforming Canada into a polite yet repressive society, where exposure to “unacceptable views” is forbidden without our knowledge.

Brian Giesbrecht, a retired judge, is a Senior Fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

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