Senate of Canada passes Internet Censorship Bill C-11

Senate of Canada passes Internet Censorship Bill C-11


The federal government’s new legislation for online Canadian content is sparking controversial conversation across the country – and rightfully so. 

Bill C-11, The Online Streaming Act, was proposed to the House of Commons in early 2022 and is still under consideration in the House of Commons. But the bill’s progress through Canadian Parliament is far from following protocol. 

On February 2, the Senate passed the bill after completion of the Third Reading, bouncing the legislation back to the House of Commons with a list of 26 amendments for consideration. Despite being labelled the longest and most laborious legislative process, Heritage Minister  Pablo Rodriguez says the Liberal government is primed to reject any Senate suggestions that actually make changes to the bill.

CTV News reported that amendments from the Senate do hit on the concerns brought up by the 218 witnesses who testified to Parliament on the bill, including changes to language that explicitly exclude user-generated content from the bill – arguably the largest point of contention from content creators and consumers alike. 

In an interview with CTV’s Vassy Kapelos at the Canadian Media Producers Association annual conference, Minister Rodriguez said “There are things that I will not accept… there are amendments that have zero impact on the bill. And others that do, and those, we will not accept them.” 

He went on to add “if all goes well,” Canadians could see Bill C-11 given Royal assent as soon as “next week.”  

But, as Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair of Internet and E-commerce Law, pointed out in his most recent blog post on the issue, the bill will return to the Senate after the upcoming review by the House of Commons.

 Although any predictions on how the Senate’s Fourth Reading will proceed are speculation, Geist does point out a pivotal dichotomy: will Bill C-11 be passed in spite of rejected recommendations, or will it be tabled once again for mandatory modifications?

If passed, the Online Streaming Act would change Canada’s Broadcasting Act, introduced in 1991, and if approved for Royal Assent, would give the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission control over various aspects of Canadian content featured on the vast global network of the internet. 

Although not the first bill of its kind to reach the House of Commons and Senate, many blogs, articles, and even experts such as Geist have noted that no other country in the world has policies that mirror Bill C-11. 

Jeanette Patell, Head of Canada Government Affairs and Public Policy at Youtube, testified to the Standing Senate Committee of Transport and Communications in September of this year that Bill C-11 “would allow the CRTC to ask platforms to manipulate their algorithms to produce required outcomes.” 

Certain amendments of the bill “explicitly give a government regulator authority over what content is prioritized, and how and where content is presented to Canadians, handing the CRTC the power to decide who wins and who loses,” she added. 

Bill C-10, the predecessor to Bill C-11, was introduced into the House of Commons in 2020 but was ultimately dropped when Parliament dissolved in August of 2021 for the federal election. And the government is taking no chances with Bill C-11 meeting the same end. 

In June of this year, MPs were forced to vote on 150 amendments to Bill C-11 with no explanation or debate on the contents. The federal government imposed a deadline of 9 p.m. on the line-by-line debate of the bill, meaning MPs had to vote on alpha-numerical titles of amendments without hearing the specifics.

Canadians watching the House of Commons session were left baffled by the lack of transparency, and the Liberal government has been accused of forcing legislation through parliament without due process. 

Leighton Grey, a Cold Lake-based lawyer, is one of many who has chosen to speak out against the blatant disregard for political protocol. 

“It flies in the face of centuries of parliamentary history,” Grey said in a phone interview, “That is not the way laws are made in a free and democratic society.” 

“But this is another example of the extent to which the federal government is committed to overreach. I think this should be very concerning to all Albertans.”

And Grey is far from the only Canadian concerned about the potential impacts of Bill C-11. 

J.J. McCullough is a Canadian Youtuber and Weekly Columnist for the Washington Post. The Content Creator covers topics ranging from the universal truths of getting older to interviews with prominent Canadian politicians such as Pierre Poilievre. 

McCullough has been a staunch defender of Canadian content creators’ interests. The award-winning Youtuber travelled to Ottawa in order to voice his stance on Bill C-11 at a parliamentary committee on June 1, 2022. 

Dubbing himself “a mid-level Youtuber at best,” McCullough said, “It is simply impossible to regulate a platform like Youtube without also regulating creator content. It’s like promising not to regulate books while regulating what can be sold in bookstores.” 

The Youtuber breaks down the stringent criteria used by the CRTC to classify content as “officially Canadian,” and cites sections of the proposed bill that would allow the federal government to decide which genres and creators will be “Canadian enough” to be given playtime on a regulated internet. 

Calgarian comedian and content creator Spencer Streichert agrees with McCullough’s stance. With multiple stand-up albums, short films, and a recent Telus Optik web series available across digital platforms, Streichert is a prime example of young Canadians using the web to pay the bills. 

A lifelong Canadian who highlights local stories and faces, Streichert says he wouldn’t necessarily classify the content he makes, or even consumes on a regular basis, as “super Canadian.”

The comic says “the problem with having to try and pin down a Canadian voice,” is exactly what makes Canadian identity a point of pride for many. “For me, the distinct Canadian voice is diversity, and … being able to accept everybody’s cultures,” he said. 

“Somebody who just immigrated to this country is as Canadian as my grandma, whose ancestors have lived here for hundreds of years … so, if you’re going to determine what is Canadian, you have to then define what is Canadian, and that’s not going to be very easy.” 

Sentiments heard in Streicherts’ opinion and McCullough’s statement can be heard in other criticisms of the bill. Irene Burkowitz, Media Analyst and Senior Policy Fellow at Ryerson University wrote a commentary on Bill C-11’s path through Parliament and cited Len St. Aubin’s comments that the bill is trying to force the dynamic and undefined internet peg through the square-shaped broadcasting hole. 

St. Aubin, former Broadcasting Act Policy Team Member and Director General of Telecommunications Policy at Industry Canada, said the government has “drank the ‘Kool-Aid’” of old media regulation and is forcing the internet backwards into a bygone era. 

Burkowitz herself attended the House of Commons Witness Testimony Meetings in order to speak about the potential freeze Bill C-11 would instill upon Canadian media innovation. She says the sector is “exploding with exuberance, employment, and revenue, proving global competition is making us stronger.” 

Many other witnesses who testified to the House of Commons on May 24 alongside Berkowitz denounced the archaic legislation, noting the financial impacts content creators will endure on regulated platforms, and questioning the need to impose regulations designed to protect valuable and limited Canadian airwaves. 

One such witness was Phillip Palmer, a telecommunications and internet law attorney who also had a hand in developing the Broadcasting Act. 

“We now live in the Internet age,” Palmer said during his testimony. “The Internet … has virtually unlimited capacity to permit every form of communication and permit any member of the public to hear an extraordinary diversity of voices … There is no scarcity on the Internet.” 

And the ever-expanding scope of the internet has allowed artists to explore creation in new ways, says Streichert. 

“People can make whatever they want, they can keep doing their craft, they can keep putting it out there. And over time you will find your audience,” he said. 

Unlike the days of analog entertainment and limited airtime, Streichert says “you don’t need to be competitive with other people… collaboration is what everybody’s doing nowadays. Everybody’s going on each other’s podcasts, [and] you’re mutually growing off of it, you’re both benefiting, nobody’s gonna get thrown to the side for the new fancy toy like they used to.” 

A large part of the web’s universal appeal is “there’s a spot for everyone,” said Streichert. “We all have an opportunity to make something really cool online, and there’s no need for that scarcity mentality.” 

Despite all the criticism Bill C-11 has received so far, there are some redeeming features in the bill. CBC reported on the privacy protection amendments in the legislation, which would allow consumers more transparency in how companies use personal data to tailor online services or opt out of data tracking altogether.

But a handful of positive amendments in an otherwise out-of-touch bill is a commonly-used tactic in politics. Grey cites Bill C-69, The Impact Assessment Act, as another example of wrapping domineering legislation in shiny, distracting wrapping paper. 

“Bill C-69 is, ostensibly, a bill to protect the environment,” Grey said, but adds the legislation, which received Royal Assent in 2019, is a “basic attack upon Alberta Energy and on Canadian Oil and Gas.” 

“We have a federal government in Ottawa that is continually operating paternalistically, telling us what is good for us and to take our medicine. But wrapped within this pretty wrapping are things that are pretty awful, pretty destructive,” Grey asserted. 

Rob Boutilier, A.K.A the Patriotic Dad on social media, shares Grey’s disposition. The Fort McMurray resident and oilfield worker initially took to blogging as a form of political commentary in 2017 and has since found a large audience who resonate with his opinions. Boutilier has amassed 150,000 followers on Tik Tok and Facebook, where he frequently posts his “guerilla video” shorts. 

When it comes to his thoughts on Bill C-11, Boutilier was clear: the language of the bill that has come under fire for lack of clarity isn’t an oversight, but an intentional creation of legal grey areas.

“There’s a lot of weasel words, there’s a lot of framed language that can be manipulated to get the result they want… I see the government manipulating the language in that document, and then expanding on their overreach even further,” said Boutilier. 

Boutilier proclaims he doesn’t trust any level of government to act in his best interest, and his content encourages others to think critically. If Bill C-11 is passed, Boutilier says “the result is maximum influence over what you can do and what you can say online, maximum power, transferred over to the government.” 

Grey and Boutilier are not the only Albertans who feel this way. Dr. Dennis Modry, a former Cardiac Surgeon, renowned for performing the first heart transplant in Western Canada, is ready to draw a hard line in the sand and is inviting other Albertans to stand with him. 

“The majority of Albertans … are disillusioned with the federal government. So what does that mean? Well, that means that people want something different,” said Modry. 

Angus Reid conducted a cross-country poll on public opinion of the federal government in early 2022, and the results are clear: 73% of Alberta residents feel their interests are not represented on Parliament Hill, topped only by Saskatchewan’s 76%. 

Modry, now retired from his medical career, is the CEO of the Alberta Prosperity Project, an educational society created to enlighten Albertans on the province’s potential. 

First irritated by the implementation of the National Energy Program in 1980, Modry has had an independent Alberta on his mind for over 40 years. His goal, and the goal of the Alberta Prosperity Project, is to bolster the support of like-minded individuals and put Albertan priorities back on the political table. 

Modry called Bill C-11 “a complete anathema to democracy” in a phone interview, and faulted the federal government for attempting to install legislation that would eliminate citizens’ rights to disagree with mainstream ideas. 

“One of the fundamental tenets of democracy is freedom of speech. And the Online Streaming Act has the ability to not just limit or inhibit totally, narrative that they don’t like, but also to compromise alternative media and I think that’s just fundamentally wrong.” 

Alternative media publications like Rebel News and the Alberta-based Western Standard have seen an increase in readers and viewers alike in recent years, and Modry credits this to average folk being “turned off by the mainstream media.” 

And the same lack of interest in corporate legacy media and government narrative is driving Albertans and other western Canadians to organizations (1, 2, 3) like the Alberta Prosperity Project. 

The Project’s social media pages are peppered with supportive comments from dedicated followers and newcomers looking to learn more about the movement, and with a combined follower count of more than 14,000 users across social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, the efforts of Modry and his team are not in vain. 

To Modry, “one of the highest callings is to try and help others. And in the context of Alberta … [government overreach] is compromising people’s freedoms and their rights and their prosperity.” 

In 1985, Modry introduced a heart/lung transplant program for Western Canada, a then-controversial development in medicine that set the stage for subsequent transplant programs which put the University of Alberta Hospital at the forefront of transplant medicine.  

The former cardiothoracic surgeon views the mission of the Alberta Prosperity Project as a similar venture: expanding the comfortable boundaries of precedent for the greater good.

“[A] successful campaign … to educate Albertans can be a beacon of light, if you will, for other regions in the world to follow suit, to stand up again against the oppression that is occurring.”

To learn more about how the Alberta Prosperity Project is advocating for and educating Albertans on their rights, freedom, and prosperity, visit

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