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Canadian lawmaker says it’s worth violating free speech to promote Quebec content in algorithms

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The debate around Canada’s upcoming Bill C-11 (The Online Streaming Act) is producing some interesting, and at times at first glance shocking, arguments in the country’s legislature.

Thus a Bloc Quebecois MP told the House of Commons on Monday that if the bill – controversial for its potential to harm free speech – succeeds in promoting online content originating in Quebec – it’s fine to harm free speech.

“If violating freedom of expression means ensuring that Quebec content is well represented online, then that’s worth it,” MP Andreanna Larouche said, speaking in French.

Larouche’s party supports the government effort to get the bill passed, which is expected to happen shortly. While the process is still under way, the Senate’s amendments designed to exempt regular Canadians’ online content from regulation were rejected by the government in early March.

All the while, those behind the bill like Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez keep saying that this type of content is not covered by the bill – while steadfastly refusing to include the exact provision in the draft law.

Supporters of the bill say that this content is not regulated by the bill in the first place (and that would be why an amendment to explicitly state it has been rejected), but others claim that interpretation of the current text of the bill is not accurate on this point, and among them is a former head of the CRTC – the regulator that should enforce the bill once it becomes law.

As for Larouche’s comment, it was sure to cause reactions and interpretations, and some see it as the embodiment of the big picture here around the question of whether or not user content will be regulated.

While the ruling party and its supporters in this matter are seen as attempting to avoid a clear answer, Larouche might have just spelled it out.

Rodriguez and the government want support from what’s described as “the Quebec culture lobby” and to achieve that goal, are willing to throw under the bus some elements of freedom of expression.

Senator Paula Simons, who was behind the “compromise” amendments, is warning that if passed as it is today, Bill C-11 will turn into “a public relations nightmare and a policy blunder.”

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