MP Mel Arnold: Freedom of Expression Must Be Protected

Opinion Editorial from MP Mel Arnold Credit: The North Shuswap Kicker, June 2021

World wars have been fought to protect our rights and freedom of speech and we must never let those rights and freedoms be eroded.
When the Trudeau government introduced bill C-10 last November, Minister of Canadian Heritage Steven Guilbeault told the House of Commons the bill’s amendments to the Broadcasting Act were aimed at benefiting Canada’s artists and musicians by forcing web giants to increase investments in Canadian content. This initial commitment seemed reasonable especially considering the need for our Broadcast Act to be modernized in light of the major changes in where and how we source music, television and film entertainment.
A couple of weeks later, the minister told the House that C-10 was aimed at film, television and music streaming services like Netflix and Spotify and that the government was committed to introducing another bill aimed at social media platforms like Facebook. At that time, the minister also stated that user-generated content would not be subject to the new regulations.
Despite these assurances, the bill’s progression took a sudden turn on April 23 when the Trudeau Liberals suddenly amended the bill to extend its powers to the regulation of user-generated content on social media platforms. A bill originally presented as essential to protecting and ensuring continued Canadian content suddenly became a government bill seeking to regulate what Canadians say or share on social media. Smart phone apps were also added to the purview of the proposed regulations.
These amendments prompted strong reactions from my Conservative colleagues and I and I feel it is important to explain to constituents why we are flat-out rejecting bill C-10. In a democratic society such as Canada’s, citizens need to be free to call out abuses of power and without fear of consequence.
What we see around the world and here in Canada today is that social media has rapidly become the central platform used by citizens expressing their rejections or protests against injustices, including those of governments. The proposals of C-10 open the door for the federal government and its regulating agency to undermine our ability to continue exercising our critical democratic freedom of expression.
After 14 months of living with pandemic restrictions, many Canadians are isolated at home and relying on social media for information, connectivity, and entertainment. I strongly question why the Trudeau government has chosen this time to radically change how Canadians can use social media.
My Conservative colleagues and I know that there needs to be a level playing field for large foreign streaming services and Canadian broadcasters to compete on; we also know that it is important to ensure the sustainability of Canada’s arts and culture. Most importantly, we know that these objectives can be achieved without undermining or eroding fundamental rights and freedoms of Canadians.
I will continue to fight the Trudeau government’s dangerous proposals in C-10 and stand up for the rights and freedoms that Canadians expect and deserve.
Mel Arnold, MP
North Okanagan- Shuswap