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Latest from Michael Geist

Earlier this month, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada released a scathing report on the RCMP’s use of facial recognition technology, particularly its work with Clearview AI. The report was particularly damaging as the Commissioner found that the RCMP wasn’t truthful when it said it didn’t work with Clearview AI and then gave inaccurate information on the number of uses when it was revealed that it did. In fact, even after these findings, the RCMP still rejected the Privacy Commissioner’s findings that it violated the Privacy Act. Lex Gill is a Montreal-based lawyer where she is an affiliate at the Citizen…
Yesterday I took a break from talking about Bill C-10 to appear before the Senate Standing Committee on Transport and Communications as part of its study on Bill S-225, Senator Claude Carignan’s bill that proposes copyright reform as a mechanism to address the challenges faced by the news media sector (the bill is the focus of this week’s Lawbytes podcast, featuring a conversation with Senator Paula Simons). I was joined by representatives from News Media Canada and Facebook, which made for an engaging discussion. My opening statement is posted below: Appearance before the Senate Standing Committee on…
The government’s desperate attempt to pass Bill C-10 took another turn yesterday as the Speaker of the House of Commons declared many amendments “null and void”. The ruling came after the committee studying the bill voted on them despite a ruling from committee chair Scott Simms that doing so was a violation of the gag order limiting debate. As a result of MPs overruling the chair, the committee proceeded to vote on dozens of undisclosed amendments without any debate or discussion. The secretive law making process attracted considerable attention and once the bill returned to the House – complete with
Fresh off imposing a five-hour gag order on committee debate on Bill C-10 and rushing through a secretive process in which dozens of amendments were passed without any debate, discussion or even disclosure of the amendments, the government is back for a gag order sequel. Yesterday, the Liberal government introduced another motion, this one designed to limit debate even further: one hour for debate at the report back stage and 75 minutes at third reading. In other words, less than 2 1/2 hours total for debate on the bill in the House of Commons. The motion was introduced before…
Earlier this year, Senator Claude Carignan introduced Bill S-225, a bill that purports to address concerns about the viability of the Canadian media sector by amending the Copyright Act. The Senate has been studying the bill in recent weeks with Senator Paula Simons serving as the bill critic and one of the leads on the issue. Senator Simons was a longtime journalist before being appointed to the Senate and while an ardent supporter of local journalism, she has been critical of the proposed legislation. She joins the Law Bytes podcast to discuss the state of journalism in Canada, why…
The Liberal government’s push to pass Bill C-10 took a disturbing turn at the Canadian Heritage committee yesterday as the Liberal MPs overruled the committee chair to allow for dozens of undisclosed amendments to be voted on without any debate or discussion. While the MPs on the committee have access to the amendments, they are not made available to the public until after the committee completes its review. In normal circumstances, an amendment is introduced by an MP (the amendment may not be posted but it is often read into the record by the MP and its intent is discussed),…
Yesterday was not a good day for those who still believe that democratic ideals matter. The day began with an iPolitics-sponsored debate featuring MPs who have played a starring role at the Canadian Heritage committee review of Bill C-10: Liberal MP Anthony Housefather, Conservative MP Rachael Harder, NDP MP Heather McPherson, and Bloc MP Martin Champoux. The substantive discussion largely mirrored the committee debate, but far more dispiriting was Housefather seeking to justify the Bill C-10 gag order by arguing that it was the democratic right of the government to use whatever legislative tools are available to it (even
Several weeks after Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault introduced Bill C-10, I started a 20 part blog post series called the Broadcasting Act Blunder (podcast edition here). The series examined many of concerns with the bill, including issues such as over-broad regulation and discoverability requirements that would only garner public attention many months later. I thought about that series yesterday as I watched Guilbeault try in the House of Commons to defend the indefensible: a gag order on committee review of the bill, the first such order in two decades. While the bill is in dire need…
Communications issues have been in the political spotlight in recent weeks with the controversial CRTC decision to reverse a pricing decision on wholesale broadband that swiftly led to calls for the resignation of Commission Chair Ian Scott as well as the ongoing battle over Bill C-10, which envisions granting extensive new powers to the CRTC. Konrad von Finckenstein is a former chair of the CRTC, having led the Commission during a similarly contentious time during debates over net neutrality. He has since been outspoken on communications policy issues, including arguing that Bill C-10 should be scrapped and re-written. He joins…
Earlier this week, Bloc leader Yves-François Blanchet called for a “gag order” on Bill C-10, which would limit debate on the bill using a process known as time allocation. The irony of calling for a gag order on debate over a bill with profound implications for freedom of expression is likely not lost on many Canadians. But worse than a regional, separatist party with 32 MPs calling for a gag order is the Minister of Canadian Heritage doing so. That is precisely what happened last night, as Steven Guilbeault announced that the government would be introducing a motion to cut…
Google, which did not appear before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage as part of its study on Bill C-10 (neither did TikTok, Facebook or other big tech companies with the exception of Netflix), has spoken out over concerns with Bill C-10. The post warns of the “possible unintended consequences that could negatively and unnecessarily impact” both creators and Canadian Youtube users. The company is particularly concerned with the discoverability requirements that have been expanded to include user generated content: If Bill-C10 rules were to go into effect as currently written, people would be seeing suggestions not based on their…
The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage continued its clause-by-clause review of Bill C-10 yesterday, spending the full two hours debating a Conservative amendment that would have restored the user generated content safeguards that were removed when Section 4.1 was dropped from the bill. The Conservative amendment effectively offered the parties a “do-over” by acknowledging that the removal had sparked huge public concern over the implications for freedom of expression and net neutrality. Nevertheless, the Liberals, NDP, and Bloc voted down the motion, with the NDP not even bothering to speak to the issue at all. While the three parties were…
Weeks into a high profile debate over Bill C-10, the issue of discoverability of Canadian content has emerged as a policy tug of war between supporters that want the CRTC to intervene by mandating the discoverability of Canadian content on sites such as Youtube and Tiktok and critics that argue the approach would raise significant freedom of expression and net neutrality concerns. But what exactly is “discoverability” and how would it impact both users and the thousands of Canadian creators that have already found success on digital platforms? Fenwick McKelvey is a communications professor at Concordia University who has written…
The CRTC yesterday released its wholesale Internet rates decision, shocking the industry and consumer groups by reversing its 2019 ruling and virtually guaranteeing increased costs for consumers and less competition for Internet services. Indeed, within hours, TekSavvy, one of the largest independent providers, announced that it was withdrawing from the forthcoming spectrum auction and would no longer offer mobile services. In other words, the competitive and consumer cost reverberations from the decision will impact both broadband and wireless services. When the increased costs coming from Bill C-10 for Internet services are added to the equation, the Internet could get…
Bill C-10 was once again a major topic of discussion during Question Period in the House of Commons yesterday, with questions focusing on the broad scope of the law, freedom of speech concerns with regulating user generated content, and the inconsistencies in Cancon rules. Yet the issue that seemed to garner increased attention was whether Bill C-10 violates the government’s longstanding commitment to net neutrality. The net neutrality issue was sparked earlier this month by Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault, who suggested in an interview that critics of Bill C-10 were supporters of net neutrality, a comment that many…
Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault has frequently claimed that his legislative goal in Bill C-10 is to “get money from web giants”. As last week’s post on a Canadian Heritage departmental memo highlighted, Bill C-10 targets far more than just “web giants” as the bill adopts a far broader regulatory approach that targets podcast apps such as Stitcher and Pocket Casts, audiobook services such as Audible, home workout apps, pornographic sites, sports streaming services such as MLB.TV and DAZN, niche video services such as Britbox, and even broadcaster websites such as the BBC. The effect of significant new regulatory…