Column like I see 'em - Is Trudeau trying to pull the ultimate internet troll job?


By Eoin Devereux

Neepawa Banner & Press

Prime minister Justin Trudeau is finding out that you DO NOT mess with a Canadian’s ability to watch other people play video games on YouTube or access adorable videos of puppies on Tik Tok.

The federal government recently approved a major change to Bill C-10, a document under consideration that would amend the Broadcasting Act. If approved, C-10 would allow the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to regulate streaming services such as Netflix and Disney Plus. A late in the game change, however, has created a massive uproar that has many of us actually looking up from our smartphones and paying attention to something other than Markiplier and Charli D’Amelio, which my younger co-workers had to explain to me are people that apparently not only exist, but are quite popular.

The change in question was the removal of Section 4.1, which had exempted content posted by Canadians to platforms like YouTube from CRTC regulation. On Apr. 30, the Heritage committee further enflamed the situation by closing any further debate on the bill, a move that critics quickly latched onto.

The negative response online was swift and severe to the point that the phrase “Chinanada” trended nationally for a time. Let’s all just calm down on that type of rhetoric. China’s Communist government has banned thousands of websites and has been accused of monitoring its own citizens’ online activities.  That’s extremely unlikely to happen here due to this change to the bill…But it doesn’t guarantee it can’t happen and in a much more subtle way.

The initial wording within Section 4.1, protecting Canadians from CRTC regulation was put in there for a reason. It was also removed for a reason and in the days that followed, the Trudeau government has done a poor job of explaining why.

And I’m sorry, but simply being able to say, “Trust us, we’re not as bad as Communists,” really isn’t the benchmark I’m looking for from a democratic nation. I expect a slightly higher standard.

The foundations of Bill C-10 were meant to be positives for Canada. In its most basic terms, it levels the playing field between domestic broadcasters and foreign internet streaming services, who all operate almost entirely free of regulation in Canada. Domestic companies, meanwhile, are subject to a wide array of content quotas, regulatory oversight taxes and fees. There is some good in this bill that could create a better state of equality and protection for Canadian broadcasting jobs.

The vagueness of the bill’s wording, however, along with the removal of Section 4.1, creates the possibility our nation’s broadcasting watchdog could have the right to regulate user-generated content on social media. The idea of a government controlling what you can read, watch and post online feels just a little bit “unCanadian” and the government has done a poor job of convincing us otherwise. But maybe this is all just an overreaction on all our parts and if we know anything about social media, overreaction rarely happens online.

Disclaimer: Column like I see ‘em is a monthly opinion piece for the Neepawa Banner & Press. The views expressed are the writer’s and are not necessarily to be taken as being the view of the Banner & Press.