strong and free c11 panel
Day 1 of the Canada Stong and Free Networking Conference kicked off in Ottawa on Wednesday, and included in the first day's lineup was a panel on Bills C-11 and C-18. Both bills have been shrouded in controversy and blasted for their impact on freedom of speech, access to the news, and content creation in Canada.

Rachel Curran, Head of Public Policy for Meta Canada, expressed concern over the way the bills would regulate user-generate content. She highlighted how the government allegedly did not want to regulate user-generated content, however an amendment that was rejected by the house suggests "there is probably some indication there that the government DOES want to get at user-generated content. We're concerned about that."

Aaron Gunn said the ideology underpinning the bills is that the government wants "to control what people think by controlling what they see." He noted that "A lot of people get their conservative content from the United States — Ben Shapiro, Joe Rogan — so they're going to bury all that deep on the algorithm if you're Canadian."

Senator Housakous — who has been outspoken against the bill — was blunt in his description of C-11: "It's a censorship act. It's a censorship bill." He noted how successful Canadian content is performing on its own, and said "The only thing that Justin Trudeau is trying to protect right now are the traditional gatekeeping broadcasters" and "not for the interest of Canadians."

The Sentate sent C-11 back to the House with amendments, and will eventually go back to the Senate. Housakous said that "I'll tell you that the fight is not over in the Senate. When it does come back, we will continue to fight 'til the end."

Curran said "Facebook announced that if C-18 passed substantially unamended, that we would be removing news — Canadian news content — from our platforms." She said the platform supports journalism, news, Canadian news creators, but if the government will ask them to pay for content "we're just going to say no and remove that content from our platforms."

"C-18 is going to benefit most the big broadcasters," Curran continued, "so Bell, CBC, the big broadcasters who are already heavily subsidized are going to benefit most from this bill."

Housakos said that C-11 and C-18 have nothing to do with hate or protection of intellectual property, and that existing laws should be ramped up instead. "Now who is the CRTC, or the Minister of Heritage, or the Cabinet to decide what is hate speech?"

Gunn said it's like the government "read Animal Farm and 1984 and used it not as a warning for totalitarianism but as an instruction manual for how to govern."

Civil liberties advocate Rizwan Mohammad said that one of the most concerning things to him is how the Canadian Heritage Committee demanded Facebook and Meta disclose their "external communications in relation to all Canadian regulations since January 1, 2020," saying "Where does it go from here? These kinds of tactics are increasingly authoritarian, and leading to rights violating that we have to stand up against very strongly, and we're looking to the Conservative Party to do that."

Senator Housakos did express some optimism he has felt over the last few months, noting that many millennials who voted Liberal have been vocal against C-11. "I think the government has completely miscalculated," he said. "It has awakened a political flame inside of that generation that I haven't seen as a Conservative forever."