The Hamilton Spectator

NDP leader must support changes to Bill C-11


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 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 an important 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 important 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 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 usergenera­ted 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 both voted for the bill, inserted the amendment that prevents the regulation of user-generated content. But Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez, the author of Bill C-11, has already indicated publicly that the Trudeau government doesn’t plan to accept the Senate’s amendment. Enter Singh from stage left. The NDP voted for Bill C-11 when it was first in the House of Commons and may be inclined to do so again. But New Democratic 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 who are 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.

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