Canadian Senator David Adams Richards is sounding alarm bells around Bill C-11 as a tool of censorship, as the legislation is entering the final part of the debate in Canada's Senate.
C-11 is the successor to Bill C-10 designed to amend the Broadcasting Act, which failed in 2021 amid a flurry of criticism regarding the way it sought to regulate online platforms.
Richards was a vocal critic of C-10 as well, saying at one point during the debate two years ago that it didn't need amendments, but “a stake through the heart” – which, figuratively speaking, it eventually received.
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Now the senator is no less passionately opposed to C-11, which he expressed during a recent debate concerning a compromise amendment related to user content regulation, when he said, “this law will be one of scapegoating all those who do not fit into what our bureaucrats think Canada should be.”
One of the key arguments offered by the bill's sponsors is that it amends the broadcasting and regulatory landscape to ensure representation of Canadians from different ethnic, cultural, racial and sexual orientation backgrounds.
In his address, however, Richards said he saw C-11 as “censorship passing as national inclusion.”
He made his speech in the context of historical examples of authorities suppressing freedom of expression, and moved on to describe the current state of society, the attempt at “wokeness,” as something that has turned Canada into “a land of scapegoaters and finger-pointers.”
And while some laws and regulations impose outright censorship, Richards seems to be more concerned with the possibility that C-11 might benefit from that state of society to introduce more self-censorship.
Richards noted George Orwell's warning against making “a prison” of self-censorship – to then slam the proposed bill as “going a long way” towards creating one.
“The idea of any hierarchical politico deciding what a man or woman is allowed to write to fit a proscribed national agenda is a horrid thing,” the senator said, addressing his colleagues.
Richards spoke against giving the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) such powers that would allow it to decide what is considered Canadian content – “or who should be allowed to bob their heads up out of the new murkiness we have created.”
The senator also warned that although geared towards regulating the internet in these new, controversial ways, C-11 would also spill over into other, traditional forms of content creation, including book and music writing.
In his speech, Richard strongly rejected the possibility that it should be the heritage minister's power to identify what is Canadian content, and spoke in favor of the concept of identity rather than “identity politics.”