Canada’s new law threatens freedom of speech


PM Trudeau’s liberal government is planning to introduce measures that would force every news website to obtain a government licence to operate in Canada. The government has come up with the proposal in a bid to renew its communication channels, although the minister in charge admittedly does not see “what the bid deal” with the proposed regulations is. Canadians have criticized the planned measure on social media, saying it could endanger free speech in the country.

In late January, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) published a report with a rather revealing title: Canada’s communications future: Time to act. The report included 97 recommendations, including how to regulate not only radio and television broadcasters, but news websites as well. One of the recommendations – number 56, to be specific – would require news channels to have a permit of operation approved by the government. It would also require, besides the current license prescribed by law, that everyone wishing to publish media content online should register themselves.

Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault has been tasked with updating Canada’s broadcasting laws. When asked directly how the legislation would affect foreign websites such as Breitbart News, Guilbeault said he did not think foreign sites would be blocked in Canada if they did not comply with the CRTC. As to the proposed regulation, he said: “Frankly I’m not sure I see what the big deal is.”

Current regulations include forcing commercial radio-broadcasters who primarily play music to have at least 35 per cent of their content per week come from Canadian artists. A similar recommendation appears in the CRTC’s report that brokerage companies should contribute to the production of Canadian content. Guilbeault says this could be achieved by applying a levy, or if streaming companies were made to allocate a portion of their revenues to the cause. The minister added that their tax model is about “fairness,” and these companies are ” investing a lot of money in Canada right now. We’re asking them to dedicate part of that money to specific Canadian cultural content. We’re not asking them to do more.”