B.C. Bill 12 (Online Harms) Deferred: Another Case Of Problem, Reaction, Solution

The C.B.C. recently reported that British Columbia Bill 12 (the Online Harms Act) is being paused for now. This is titled the Public Health Accountability and Cost Recovery Act. The stated reason is that social media companies like Facebook and X/Twitter have come to the table to implement their own protections.

But B.C. Premier David Eby made it clear that this may go ahead anyway, if an agreement cannot be worked out.

Other recent B.C. specific legislation includes:
Bill 23, the (Anti-White) Anti-Racism Act, and
Bill 31, domestic implementation of U.N. Sendai Framework

The stated purpose is to hold companies — such as social media outlets — accountable for medical and health care costs that arise from content they put out. An example cited is Carson Cleland, the 12 year old from Prince George, who committed suicide last October after online sextortion. It’s claimed that if platformed were properly regulated, this wouldn’t have happened.

However, it appears more likely that this is a pretext to be able to swiftly remove content the Government deems “harmful”, for whatever reason. And this is being achieved in the standard way.

  1. Problem
  2. Reaction
  3. Solution

The PROBLEM is that Bill 12 is crafted in such a way as to impose financially crippling penalties. No Government wants to be seen as being overtly anti-free speech. So this must be framed in a manner that appeals to public safety.

The REACTION is that companies get nervous about the fines and other costs they could be on the hook for, even if they weren’t complicit in generating the material.

The SOLUTION is that social media firms agree to “voluntarily” implement their own measures, which means complying with what the Government wanted anyway.

Now, what’s in this Bill?

Direct action by government
2 (1) The government has a direct and distinct action against a person to recover the cost of health care benefits caused or contributed to by a health-related wrong.
.
(2) For certainty,
(a) subsection (1) does not establish a right of action for any other person, and
(b) the cost of health care benefits recoverable under subsection (1) includes the cost of health care benefits in relation to the risk of disease, injury or illness.

Direct action by the government of Canada
3 (1) The government of Canada has a direct and distinct action against a person to recover the cost of health care benefits caused or contributed to by a health-related wrong.
.
(2) For certainty,
(a) subsection (1) does not establish a right of action for any other person, and
(b) the cost of health care benefits recoverable under subsection (1) includes the cost of health care benefits in relation to the risk of disease, injury or illness.

Sections 2 and 3 of the Bill specify that the B.C. (and oddly, Canadian) Governments are able to take legal action against people for health care costs in relation to “disease, injury or illness”.

Interestingly, both Sections 2 and 3 specify that the right of action — or ability to sue — is for Governments only. Private people apparently don’t have that right. Then there’s 2(6) and 3(6)

(6) If the government [of Canada seeks] in an action under subsection (1) to recover the cost of health care benefits on an aggregate basis,

(a) it is not necessary
(i) to identify particular individual benefit recipients,
(ii) to prove the cause of disease, injury or illness in any particular individual benefit recipient, or
(iii) to prove the cost of health care benefits for any particular individual benefit recipient

What this means is that while both the B.C. and Federal Governments have the right to sue to recoup health care costs, private citizens don’t. It’s also not required that they identify: (a) beneficiaries; (b) causation; or (c) analysis of health care benefits.

Apparently, companies aren’t limited to being sued once, either.

Private parties and proceedings
6 (1) It is not a defence to an action commenced by the government under section 2 (1), or by the government of Canada under section 3 (1), that a claim for a benefit recipient’s damages, alleged to have been caused or contributed to by a health-related wrong, has been adjudicated or settled.

6 (2) It is not a defence to an action commenced in respect of a benefit recipient’s claim for damages, alleged to have been caused or contributed to by a health-related wrong, that an action commenced by the government under section 2 (1), or by the government of Canada under section 3 (1), has been adjudicated or settled.

It’s a commonly accepted principle that once a dispute is resolved, that it not be rehashed in a different forum. This applies to things like union grievances and human rights complaints. But here, it’s explicitly stated that “adjudicated or settled” won’t protect from future litigation.

Section 8 gets into what evidence will be allowed. This will include “statistical information and information derived from epidemiological, sociological and other relevant studies, including information derived from sampling”. In other words, modelling will be allowed as evidence. Remember how that was used back in 2020/2021?

Section 10 states that the Statute of Limitations both for the B.C. and Federal Governments will be 15 years. This goes well above the 2 year limit that typically applies.

In any event, it’s not hard to see what social media companies are nervous about Bill 12 going ahead. It exposes them to all kinds of risks, but without really defining their responsibilities. It’s no surprise that they’re now willing to work something out to prevent this legislation from going ahead.

Another area the CBC article omitted was any explanation of who was responsible for social media companies capitulating. For that, we turn to the B.C. Lobbying Registry.

Jean-Marc Prevost is one of the people lobbying on behalf of Facebook. He’s a former staffer for BCPHO Bonnie Henry, and helped her push the injections back in 2021. To give context, he was a part of this same NDP Government, leaves, and then promptly lobbies that same Government. See Archive.

And the conflict of interest doesn’t end there. Prevost lobbied for the company Emergent BioSolutions Inc., a few years back. This is the actual manufacturer of the AstraZeneca vaccines. He had the ear of the right people at the time.

Bradley Lavigne works at Counsel Public Affairs, same as Prevost. In March, he also lobbied on behalf of Facebook. And similar to Prevost. Lavigne pushed for vaccines on behalf of Emergent BioSolutions back in 2021. He has been a CBC commentator for about 20 years, meaning he pitches his clients’ goals directly to the public. See archive. He has also been in the inside of the Federal NDP party structure going back to the days of Jack Layton.

As should be obvious: a lot of these “commentators” and “pundits” are really just paid actors, playing the role of experts. And although these actors are supposedly from different political parties, their respective firms have people on staff across the spectrum.

For more on Emergent BioSolutions, or pharma lobbying more broadly, there are many rabbit holes to go down. These examples are hardly exhaustive.

Rachel Curran also lobbied on behalf of Meta. This is important since she spent over 3 years as part of the B.C. Government, and more than 6 more working for Harper Federally. See archive. Additionally, she lists herself as a CBC commentator from 2016 to 2020. This isn’t simply a left or right issue, but one where all parties do much the same things.

  • Francis LeBlanc – Chair, Former Executive Director, Canadian Association of Former Parliamentarians
  • Chris Wilkins – Past Chair, CEO, Edge Interactive
  • Robert Asselin, Senior Director, Public Policy, Blackberry
  • Megan Beretta, Policy Analyst, Canadian Digital Service
  • Rachel Curran, Public Policy Manager, Canada, Facebook
  • Peter Donolo, Vice-Chairman, Hill+Knowlton Strategies Canada
  • Dr. Elizabeth Dubois, Assistant Professor of Communication, University of Ottawa
  • Kathleen Monk, Principal, Earnscliffe Strategies

Curren is also involved in CIVIX, which is an online “disinformation prevention” group funded by taxpayers. In fact, there are several such organizations in Canada. Some are registered as charities, receiving large tax benefits.

The name Peter Donolo should also ring a bell. He was Jean Chretien’s Chieff of Staff in the 1990s, and helped get him elected. He also worked with Michael Ignatieff and Justin Trudeau.

It’s interesting that groups that are supposed to stop disinformation also are filled with operatives from the same Governments who are impacted.

The B.C. Government was lobbied on behalf of X (formerly Twitter) with regards to Bill 12. Fernando Minna works for Capital Hill Group, and has for the past 3 years. See archive.

Capitol Hill Group is run by David Angus, who worked for former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, and former Ontario Premier Bill Davis.

Sabrina Geremia of Google lobbied the B.C. Government as well. While she doesn’t list political involvement in her profile, at least 3 colleagues do: Lindsay Doyle, Jeanette Patell, and Semhar Tekeste.

Erin O’Toole, former CPC Leader, gets an honourable mention. Before getting into politics, he lobbied on behalf of Facebook. He worked for Heenan Blaikie, same law firm as Jean Chretien and Pierre Trudeau.

Why cover all of this?

Bill 12 seems designed to force social media companies into compliance or face crippling financial penalties. Virtually anything can “cause public health harm”, depending on how it’s worded. This legislation is written in such a way that either Victoria or Ottawa can inflict damage. But these groups are very willing to negotiate, and the lobbyists have connections to those same Governments.

If the goal all along was to compel these outlets into being willing to censor, it’s more effective to get them to do it themselves. And remember, it’s all voluntary here. Technically, no one has been forced.

Problem. Reaction. Solution.

(1) https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/bc-online-harms-bill-paused-1.7182392
(2) https://www.leg.bc.ca/
(3) https://www.leg.bc.ca/parliamentary-business/legislation-debates-proceedings/42nd-parliament/5th-session/bills/progress-of-bills
(4) https://www.lobbyistsregistrar.bc.ca/
(5) https://www.lobbyistsregistrar.bc.ca/app/secure/orl/lrs/do/vwRg?cno=5501&regId=56572920
(6) https://www.lobbyistsregistrar.bc.ca/app/secure/orl/lrs/do/vwRg?cno=4186&regId=56566730
(7) https://www.linkedin.com/in/jean-marc-prevost-04830598/
(8) Jean-Marc Prevost LinkedIn Profile
(9) https://www.lobbyistsregistrar.bc.ca/app/secure/orl/lrs/do/cmmLgPblcVw?comlogId=34073
(10) https://www.lobbyistsregistrar.bc.ca/app/secure/orl/lrs/do/vwRg?cno=1334&regId=56559236&blnk=1
(11) https://www.linkedin.com/in/brad-lavigne-a0927a39/
(12) Brad Lavigne LinkedIn Profile
(13) https://www.lobbyistsregistrar.bc.ca/app/secure/orl/lrs/do/cmmLgPblcVw?comlogId=34055
(14) https://www.linkedin.com/in/rachel-curran-a99258109/details/experience/
(15) Rachel Curran LinkedIn Profile
(16) https://www.lobbyistsregistrar.bc.ca/app/secure/orl/lrs/do/vwRg?cno=5460&regId=56572569&blnk=1
(17) https://www.linkedin.com/in/fernandominna/
(18) Fernando Minna LinkedIn Profile
(19) https://www.lobbyistsregistrar.bc.ca/app/secure/orl/lrs/do/vwRg?cno=3536&regId=56568880
(20) https://www.linkedin.com/in/sabrina-geremia-028644/
(21) https://lobbycanada.gc.ca/app/secure/ocl/lrs/do/vwRg?cno=16607&regId=948142
(22) https://lobbycanada.gc.ca/app/secure/ocl/lrs/do/vwRg?cno=288445&regId=668908

Second Anti-SLAPP Motion Commenced In University Of Guelph Lawsuit

Wednesday, February 28th, 2024, Byram Bridle, the high profile professor from the University of Guelph, was back in Court. This was a short hearing to set down another anti-SLAPP Motion to dismiss his December 2022 lawsuit.

Guelph has previously filed a Statement of Defence, on behalf of all their Defendants. But now, their lawyer, Lynn Turnbell, is asking that the case be thrown out altogether. Their stated reason is that the contents of the Claim are covered under Section 137.1 of the Courts of Justice Act, which is the anti-SLAPP provision.

Guelph further states that the subject matter should be tossed for a lack of jurisdiction. Bridle is a university employee, as are most Defendants. It’s argued that the matter should have gone to arbitration instead of litigation. And they’re not wrong.

The initial anti-SLAPP Motion was filed by Kate Costin, the lawyer for David Fisman. Yes, it’s that David Fisman. It’s unclear why his content (Twitter related) is being connected to this. That will be heard on November 19th, 2024.

Counsel for Bridle requested that everything be moved back to 2025. He stated that he will be taking his annual 2 month vacation to Turkey — for medical reasons.

However, Justice Dow refused that request. The Fisman anti-SLAPP Motion will still be heard in November 2024, and the Guelph Motion is now booked for October 16th, 2025.

University of Guelph Faculty covered by collective agreements

The University of Guelph publicly posts their collective bargaining agreements, which include ones with faculty members. This particular one took only seconds to find.

Article 40 of the agreement, beginning on page 131, makes it clear the steps that are to be taken in the event of a serious problem within the university.

  • Informal resolution
  • Formal grievance
  • Arbitration

This wasn’t difficult to find. Not only does Bridle presumably have a copy of this document, but it’s publicly available on the school’s website.

True, there may be the power of a Court to review the findings of an Arbitrator, depending on the rules that are set out. This would be analogous to filing an Appeal. However, what happened here was suing in Court instead of going to arbitration. These are not the same thing.

40.1 The Parties agree to attempt to resolve disputes arising from this Agreement amicably and promptly.

40.2 In order to ensure that Grievances of Members are remedied in a reasonable, just, and equitable manner, the University and the Association mutually agree that the procedure for submitting and dealing with Grievances shall be as indicated in the remainder of this Article.

Informal Resolution
40.9 The University and the Association mutually agree that it is the desire of the Parties that differences in the interpretation, application, administration, and alleged violations of this Agreement shall be dealt with as quickly as is reasonably possible. If a Member has a complaint or dispute that may give rise to a Grievance, they and/or an Association designate shall first discuss the matter at a meeting arranged for this purpose with the Dean, University Librarian, or, in the case of Veterinarians, Director, or designate, within twenty (20) days after the Member would reasonably be expected to have become aware of the circumstances giving rise to the complaint or dispute.

40.11 Failing informal resolution of the complaint or dispute and within ten (10) days following receipt of notification of the proposed resolution under the informal process, the Association has the right to present the written Formal Grievance to the Provost, or designate, pursuant to this Article.

Formal Grievance Procedure
40.14 Following receipt of a Formal Grievance, the Provost, or designate shall convene a meeting within ten (10) days with the Member and/or the Association designate. With reasonable notice to the other Party prior to the meeting, either Party may have others attend who have information relevant to the specific Grievance. The Provost (or designate) shall reply in writing within fifteen (15) days of that meeting.

40.19 Failing resolution of a Grievance, the University or the Association will provide notification that a matter shall be submitted to Arbitration. Such notification must be made in writing and addressed to the other party within fifteen (15) days of the date of receipt of the Formal Grievance decision.

40.22 The decision of the Arbitrator shall be final and binding upon the Parties.

40.23 All arbitration expenses, including the remuneration of the Arbitrator, shall be shared equally by both Parties, subject to the award of costs by the Arbitrator as part of the remedy.

Looking at Article 40.22, it seems that the Arbitrator’s ruling is meant to be final. There’s no obvious way to challenge it further, unless the process is demonstrated to be corrupted. Since no arbitration took place, that would be difficult to prove.

The process outlined is pretty straightforward: (a) informal resolution; (b) formal grievance; and (c) arbitration, if needed. There’s no mention whatsoever about having an option to pursue litigation. This is typical in unionized and Government workplaces.

But according to the Statement of Claim, that’s not what happened.

After the grievance process went against Bridle, he didn’t pursue arbitration. Instead, he sued everyone involved. This included Nick Duley, and outside HR consultant, who was hired for an investigation. Also named is Laurie Arnott, Vice President of Faculty Relations. It’s alleged that there’s a grand conspiracy against him.

Paragraph 100, it’s stated that Guelph refused to investigate online harassment that happened outside of school grounds. It fell outside the scope of the collective bargaining agreement, and hence, no ability to do anything. This comes across as reasonable.

Paragraph 136 of the Claim says that Bridle refused to participate in Duley’s investigation, calling it a “kangaroo court”. Duley is referred to as a “hired gun”. That won’t sit well without proof.

The content in the Claim comes across as being so over the top, it’s difficult to determine what’s factual, and what’s overblown.

Now, it’s possible that the Court may find that the grievance process was corrupted and unworkable, but that’s for the Plaintiff to establish. This is sometimes referred to as “residual jurisdiction”. While a major conspiracy is alleged, it seems that it would be very difficult to prove.

Contending with the anti-SLAPP Motions

Fisman appears to have nothing to do with the University of Guelph, so including him in this case seems unproductive. Even if he did interact with some of the online content, he’s not involved in essentially what is a workplace dispute at Guelph. Considering how hard it is to prove defamation, and to get damages, this will be a tough sell in November.

The Kulvinder Gill/Ashinder Lamba, Boraks and CSASPP cases are also good examples of how much bad lawyering can impact clients.

Gill v. Maciver, 2022 ONSC 1279
Gill v. Maciver, 2022 ONSC 6169
Gill v. Maciver, 2023 ONCA 776
Boraks v. Hussen, 2023 ONSC 4294
Boraks v. Hussen, 2023 ONSC 6420
Galati v. Toews et al, 2023 ONSC 7508
Galati v. Toews et al, 2024 ONSC 935

There’s also this gem from March 2021, with a Motion scheduled for this Fall.

The trend in recent years is to implement mechanisms designed to screen out cases as abusive. For defamation type cases, these are called anti-SLAPP laws. SLAPP is of course an acronym for a strategic lawsuit against public participation.

Again, it’s hard to tell from this Statement of Claim what’s real, and what’s hype and distortion. Hopefully, more will come out in the pending Motions.

To survive an anti-SLAPP Motion, the Plaintiff is required to prove at least some of the damages. This means submitting Affidavit evidence, and being cross examined on it. The Plaintiff must also establish that there are no reasonable defences that could be relied upon. Will this happen?

How will all of this end?

It’s possible that there will be a negotiated settlement to discontinue the case entirely. Although s.137.1(5) “stays” the case, the parties can always agree to drop it. This sort of thing has happened many times before.

If not, it’s going to be very expensive for Bridle. He’s facing full indemnity (100% of costs) on 2 separate anti-SLAPP Motions. This could set him back $100,000 or more. Courts tend to be very harsh to Plaintiffs who bring lawsuits to silence public speech improperly.

An open question is why this case was even brought. Even a quick read through the collective bargaining agreement would have indicated that this was not the path to take. Should the Guelph Motion not succeed under anti-SLAPP provisions, it will likely still get dismissed due to lack of jurisdiction.

Reading through the Claim, it looks as though large parts of this are simply cut and pasted from earlier lawsuits. The same sorts of allegations come up over and over again. This isn’t original content.

It appears that Bridle was poorly advised both in employment law, and defamation law.

(1) https://www.ontario.ca/page/search-court-cases-online
(2) https://canucklaw.ca/wp-content/uploads/Byram-Bridle-Statement-Of-Claim.pdf
(3) https://canucklaw.ca/wp-content/uploads/Byram-Bridle-Statement-Of-Defence.pdf
(4) https://canucklaw.ca/byram-bridle-lawsuit-unlikely-to-ever-get-anywhere/
() https://www.uoguelph.ca/facultyrelations/collective-agreements
() https://www.uoguelph.ca/facultyrelations/system/files/UGFA_CA_2022_FinalPrint_Nov20_2023.pdf

Bill C-63 (Online Harms Act): Who’s Really Pushing This Agenda?

Bill C-63, the Online Harms Act, has been introduced in Parliament by Arif Virani, the Justice Minister. First Reading happened on February 26th, 2024. There’s a lot of it to go through

To begin with, there are actually some worthwhile provisions in the Bill, such as the mandatory reporting of child pornography. No sensible reason would reject that. And there are instances where being able to quickly remove certain content would be in the best interests of society.

Ottawa gives its own summary of the Bill.

However, Bill C-63 seems to blend together straightforward and legitimate issues with ones that are much more vague and impractical. Consequently, it’s harder to simply accept or reject.

There’s also the question of who has been influencing the drafting of this content. That will be addressed a bit later.

The Bill would create a Digital Safety Office of Canada, and an Ombudsman to oversee it. In essence, it would add a new layer of bureaucracy to specifically monitor “digital safety”.

Content that foments hatred is “defined” in this Bill, but is still vague. Additionally, it seeks to be able to attribute specific motivations to expression. What may be valid discourse to some will be considered hate speech to others.

There is a disclaimer that this wouldn’t apply to content solely because it expresses “disdain or dislike or it discredits, humiliates, hurts or offends”. Sounds great, but that also is subjective as well, depending on the views of whoever is interpreting it.

Harmful content in fact lists 7 different categories, and all of them at least somewhat open to interpretation. What can easily happen is that these new laws will be selectively applied, depending on the politics of the people involved.

The Bill would create a new section of the Criminal Code. This is one which a person could lay an information on another, and with the Attorney General’s consent, it could be brought before a Judge. If ordered by that Judge a person may be forced to enter into a recognizance, if a Judge is convinced that hate crime may be committed.

Fear of hate propaganda offence or hate crime
.
810.‍012 (1) A person may, with the Attorney General’s consent, lay an information before a provincial court judge if the person fears on reasonable grounds that another person will commit
(a) an offence under section 318 or any of subsections 319(1) to (2.‍1); or
(b) an offence under section 320.‍1001.

A person could be forced into this recognizance for up to 2 years, or would face 12 months in prison if they refuse. This is similar to being out on bail or on a peace bond, but with no actual crime committed.

Terms of the “recognizance” could include:

(a) Wearing an electronic monitoring device
(b) Return to and remain at their place of residence at specified times, a.k.a. a curfew
(c) Abstaining from drugs and alcohol
(d) Submitting to drug and alcohol testing
(e) No contact orders
(f) Weapons prohibitions

The topper on this one is that a Judge isn’t required to give reasons for this, but is supposed to say why written reasons aren’t included. Again, this is for when some is suspected that they may commit a crime. No actual charges are necessary.

Other changes to the Criminal Code involve Section 318 and 319, which raise the potential imprisonment for incitement to hatred from 2 years to 5 years.

Advocating genocide will also expose a person to a potential life sentence.

The Canadian Human Rights Act would also be amended to include “communication of hate speech”, which is defined as: to communicate or cause to be communicated hate speech by means of the Internet or any other means of telecommunication in a context in which the hate speech is likely to foment detestation or vilification of an individual or group of individuals on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.

But it also is poorly defined, which will likely lead to it being applied in an uneven manner, depending on the politics of those involved.

Section 140 of the Online Harms Act is the “Regulations” part. This is where unnamed and unelected bureaucrats are able to change or interpret provisions of the legislation without any real oversight. Nearly all Acts have such a backdoor, which allows changes to be done behind the scenes.

There is more to Bill C-63, but those are some of the major points.

Now, where did this come from?

Lobbying is a reality in politics. Special interests groups lobby money to get certain agendas pushed, and to get money for their causes. This is hardly news. Searching the Federal Lobbyist Registry, the following names come up:

  • Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA)
  • National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM)
  • Women’s Legal Education & Action Fund (LEAF)
  • YWCA Canada
  • Friends of Canadian Broadcasting

Are there others involved in this? Probably, but these are the names that come up, which appear to be relevant to regulating speech and expression.

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, CIJA, has been prolific in lobbying Ottawa for changes to the Human Rights Act, and to the Criminal Code. This group has pushed for stricter definitions around so-called hate crimes and antisemitism. Their recent efforts include making Holocaust denial punishable by prison time, and removing religious protections. See here and here.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims, NCCM, specifically lists Section 13 of the Canadian Rights Act. They want laws against Islamophobia, and condemn “white supremacy”. Other efforts include anti-racism initiatives, such as Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Women’s Legal Education & Action Fund, LEAF, had pressured Ottawa to take action against online harassment and gendered violence. The recent lobbying specifically relates to new technologies used to do this.

YWCA Canada supports regulations against online hate, which is taken from a feminist and “gendered violence” perspective.

Friends of Canadian Broadcasting is a bit of an outlier. It wants more financial support for smaller, independent media, while opposing the funding of the CBC. It also pushes for regulations around online hate. Presumably, this would lead to many (much smaller) anti-racist outlets.

And to search online hate more generally, click on this link.

While it’s always important to read upcoming legislation, this piece often gets left out. The groups pushing for changes need to be considered as well. This is especially true if our interests don’t align.

(1) https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/services/online-harms.html
(2) https://www.parl.ca/legisinfo/en/bill/44-1/c-63
(3) https://www.ourcommons.ca/Members/en/arif-virani(88910)
(4) https://www.parl.ca/DocumentViewer/en/44-1/bill/C-63/first-reading
(5) https://lobbycanada.gc.ca/app/secure/ocl/lrs/do/advSrch?searchCommand=navigate&time=1709098767406
(6) https://lobbycanada.gc.ca/app/secure/ocl/lrs/do/cmmLgPblcVw?comlogId=584229
(7) https://lobbycanada.gc.ca/app/secure/ocl/lrs/do/vwRg?cno=111&regId=937469
(8) https://lobbycanada.gc.ca/app/secure/ocl/lrs/do/cmmLgPblcVw?comlogId=594289
(9) https://lobbycanada.gc.ca/app/secure/ocl/lrs/do/vwRg?cno=358918&regId=946132
(10) https://lobbycanada.gc.ca/app/secure/ocl/lrs/do/vwRg?cno=362688&regId=941750
(11) https://lobbycanada.gc.ca/app/secure/ocl/lrs/do/vwRg?cno=377298&regId=947241
(12) https://lobbycanada.gc.ca/app/secure/ocl/lrs/do/vwRg?cno=375749&regId=944913

Private Member Bills In Current Session:
(A) Bill C-206: Decriminalizing Self Maiming To Avoid Military Service
(B) Bill C-207: Creating The “Right” To Affordable Housing
(C) Bill C-219: Creating Environmental Bill Of Rights
(D) Bill C-226: Creating A Strategy For Environmental Racism/Justice
(E) Bill C-229: Banning Symbols Of Hate, Without Defining Them
(F) Bill C-235: Building Of A Green Economy In The Prairies
(G) Bill C-245: Entrenching Climate Change Into Canada Infrastructure Bank
(H) Bill C-250: Imposing Prison Time For Holocaust Denial
(I) Bill C-261: Red Flag Laws For “Hate Speech”
(J) Bill C-293: Domestic Implementation Of Int’l Pandemic Treaty
(K) Bill C-312: Development Of National Renewable Energy Strategy
(L) Bill C-315: Amending CPPIB Act Over “Human, Labour, Environmental Rights”
(M) Bill C-367: Removing Religious Exemptions Protecting Against Antisemitism
(N) Bill S-215: Protecting Financial Stability Of Post-Secondary Institutions
(O) Bill S-243: Climate Related Finance Act, Banking Acts
(P) Bill S-248: Removing Final Consent For Euthanasia
(Q) Bill S-257: Protecting Political Belief Or Activity As Human Rights

UNESCO Guidelines For The Governance Of Digital Platforms

Recently, UNESCO released their action plan to regulate social media platforms. The guideline is a 59 page document outlining a series of goals and steps that should be taken by Member States.

On the surface, the paper seems harmless enough. But as with most things, the devil is in the details.

Going through this, the thoughts that comes to mind are the CRTC, and Bills C-11 and C-18. There’s a strong reluctance to accept any sort of Government interference with media access.

The paper talks about the importance of having an independent media, with a diversity of perspectives. Nothing wrong with that. However, there are a few places where the idea is raised of subsidizing “independent” media, presumably with Government funds. While a viable media is important, this creates an obvious conflict of interest.

There are also several mentions of online media being used in ways to help advance the U.N. Sustainable Development Agenda, a.k.a. Agenda 2030. It’s unclear what would happen if online platforms were used in ways to undermine its implementation.

There are repeated calls to use digital platforms to respect and protect human rights. This is fine in principle, but it’s undefined, and presumably arbitrary, what those rights are.

Paragraph 38 talks about the need for there to be an ongoing relationship with digital platforms and “credible” news sources. Of course, the term credible is left undefined. It’s also unclear what, if any, voices that media who aren’t considered credible would have.

Paragraph 45 gets into the topic of “compliance mechanisms”. It’s rather chilling, as it mentions the possibility of regulators making final decisions with respect to the rules on platforms.

Paragraph 49 addresses the idea of having checks and balances. This sounds fine, until one asks what structures would have to be put in place to begin with.

Paragraph 52 covers “investing” in so-called independent media, in order to make it more sustainable. If the only way that independents can survive is by getting bailout money, then that would convert them into Government employees. No need to ban critics when they can simply be bought off.

Paragraph 54 talks about having: (a) national; (b) regional; and (c) global governance systems put in place, to safeguard freedom of expression, access to information, and other human rights. There’s also a brief mention about limiting expression to protect human rights.

Perhaps the most interesting sections are paragraphs 68-73, which outline how an “independent regulator” would work. Of course, how independent can it be when it reports to the very people it’s supposed to keep an eye on.

68. In statutory regulation, official regulatory authorities, though constituting part of the executive state apparatus, should be wholly independent of the government and be primarily accountable to legislatures for fulfilment of their mandates. This applies to existing regulatory bodies that have a legitimate interest in content on platforms (such as electoral management bodies, advertising authorities, child protection entities, data and privacy commissions, competition bodies, etc.), as well as any new dedicated or coordinating regulatory instances that may be established.

69. With regard to all statutory bodies engaging in platform regulation, either solely or jointly, periodic review should be performed by an independent body reporting directly to the legislature. Statutory interventions should also be subject to review in the courts if authorities are believed to have exceeded their powers, acted unreasonably, or acted in a biased or disproportionate manner.

70. Official regulatory authorities need to be independent and free from economic, political, or other pressures. Their power and mandate should be set out in law. They should also comply with international human rights and promote gender equality standards.

71. Official regulatory institutions must have sufficient funding and expertise to carry out their responsibilities effectively. The sources of funding must also be clear, transparent, and accessible to all, and not subject to the governmental discretion.

72. Governing officials or members of the official regulatory institutions working on the issue of content on platforms should:
a. Be appointed through a participatory, transparent, non-discriminatory, and independent merit-based process.
b. Be accountable to an independent body (which could be the legislature, judiciary, an external council, or an independent board/boards).
c. Include relevant expertise in international human rights law and the digital ecosystem.
d. Deliver an annual public report to an independent body—ideally the legislature—and be held accountable to it, including by informing the body about their reasoned opinion.
e. Make public any possible conflicts of interest and declare any gifts or incentives.
f. After completing the mandate, for a reasonable period, not be hired or provide paid services to those who have been subject to their regulation, in order to avoid the risk known as “revolving doors”.

73. The official regulatory authorities should be able to request that digital platforms provide periodic reports on the application of their terms of services, and take enforcement action against digital platforms deemed non-compliant with their own policies or failing to fulfil their responsibilities to safeguard freedom of expression and access to information and diverse cultural content. They should be able to establish a complaints process and issue public recommendations that may be binding or non-binding and be empowered to issue transparent and appropriate directives to the platforms for the promotion and respect of human rights, based on international human rights standards

In fairness, there are portions that are noble, such as 72(e) and (f) which aim to limit conflicts of interest in the forms of gifts or lobbying. Lest this be viewed as a hatchet job, there are portions of the paper that are quite good.

Paragraph 115, and its many subparagraphs, detail how due process information and human rights data should be integrated at all stages of moderation. On the surface, there’s nothing wrong with this, but who will be setting the standards?

Paragraphs 116 to 118 offer suggestions for collecting user demographic data for research purposes. While it’s supposed to be anonymized, there’s not enough specifics included as to it use.

Paragraph 143 gives brief guidelines about how platforms should conduct themselves during emergencies and armed conflicts. It suggests . Developing cooperation with trusted partners, independent media organizations, and other reliable flaggers.

These are just some of the issues that are raised. This UNESCO paper seems so harmless on the surface, but it’s really vague at times when clarity is needed.

Note: While UNESCO claims to want to prevent misinformation from spreading, it has hardly been neutral or objective. Only recently, it was telling people to only trust official sources for information on the “pandemic”.

(1) https://www.unesco.org/en/articles/online-disinformation-unesco-unveils-action-plan-regulate-social-media-platforms
(2) https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000387339
(3) UNESCO Guidelines To Govern Digital Platforms
(4) https://www.youtube.com/@UNESCO
(5) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90cIg4lv-3M

SSHRC Funding Digital Citizen Research And Anti-Disinformation Grants In 2023

The SSHRC, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, has been involved in handing out more taxpayer money for the stated purpose of combatting “disinformation”. For the 2023 year, grants have been issued in the amount of $10,000 each, to various people.

Of course, this isn’t the first time such grants have been issued. It’s just the latest iteration of these initiatives.

The stated goals with the SSHRC are:

  • promote Canadian research that will develop better understanding — based on empirical evidence — of the impacts of online disinformation in Canada in order to better inform programs and policies;
  • build Canada’s capacity to conduct research on and related to countering online disinformation and other related online harms; and
  • help foster a community of research in the digital citizenship and online disinformation space in Canada.
NAME YEAR AMOUNT
Brown, Carol A.M. Jan 1, 2023 $10,000.00
Chen, Yu-Chen Jan 1, 2023 $10,000.00
Dowling, Erin Jennifer Jan 1, 2023 $10,000.00
Farokhi, Zeinab Jan 1, 2023 $10,000.00
Kennedy, Angel M. Jan 1, 2023 $10,000.00
Lin, Hause Jan 1, 2023 $10,000.00
Malo, Benjamin Jan 1, 2023 $10,000.00
Martel, Marc-Antoine Jan 1, 2023 $10,000.00
Miller, Mark D. Jan 1, 2023 $10,000.00
Munro, Daniel Jan 1, 2023 $10,000.00
Park, Jeong Hyun Jan 1, 2023 $10,000.00
Rodrigues, Daniel Jan 1, 2023 $10,000.00
Stijelja, Stefan Jan 1, 2023 $10,000.00

If nothing else, at least the grants and recipients are easy to find online. It’s always beneficial to know who’s on the Government payroll.

There is also a sub-group of this program, designed to partner with various colleges and universities to achieve what are essentially the same goals. These are the: (a) Insight Grant Supplements; (b) Postdoctoral Fellowship Supplements; and (c) Doctoral Award Supplements. Eligible areas include:

  • Creators and propagators of online disinformation in a Canadian context.
  • Digital techniques used to spread online disinformation in a Canadian context.
  • Sectors of Canadian society more or less vulnerable to online disinformation, including how disinformation may specifically affect marginalized, minority and Indigenous communities.
  • Effects of exposure to information and online disinformation on Canadians’ individual beliefs and behavior as well as overall mental health.
  • Different impacts of online disinformation in Canada and on Canada, including on democratic institutions and elections.
  • Government responses to online disinformation.
  • Disinformation outside of the internet/not online in a Canadian context.

In short, grant money is available to those willing to research into ways of “combatting misinformation”. Plainly stated, this is anything the Government disagrees with.

While Ottawa may not be banning free speech (yet), they are working on ways to limit the scope and depth of what is being talked about.

As with everything, do your own fact checking.

(1) https://search.open.canada.ca/
(2) https://search.open.canada.ca/grants/?sort=agreement_start_date+desc&search_text=disinformation&page=1
(3) https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/services/online-disinformation/joint-initiative-digital-citizen-research.html
(4) https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/services/online-disinformation/joint-initiative-digital-citizen-research/insight-grants.html

Digital Citizen Contribution Program: Grants Continuing Into 2022

More recent payouts from the Digital Citizen Contribution Program are now available on the Government of Canada website. These are subsidies to promote certain viewpoints and ideologies deemed to be favourable.

Of course, the Digital Democracy Project and the Media Literacy Week are still ongoing. The D.D.P is expected to cost $2.5-million over four years, while the M.L.W. another $225,000 over three years,

As an aside, UNESCO seems to have taken note of Canada’s Digital Citizen Initiative, and dedicated a page to covering it. That’s interesting.

The listings for latest grants include:

NAME YEAR AMOUNT
Alex Wilner and Casey Babb Aug. 10, 2020 $9,900.00
Alperin, Juan P. Apr. 1, 2020 $20,000.00
Apathy Is Boring Project Apr 1, 2022 $50,000.00
Asian Environmental Association – HUA Foundation Apr. 1, 2020 $64,660.00
BILAL Community & Family Centre Aug. 15, 2020 $40,000.00
Calgary Animated Objects Society Aug. 1, 2020 $40,000.00
Centre for Democracy and Development Oct. 22, 2018 $49,420.00
The Centre For Israel And Jewish Affairs Sep. 1, 2020 $38,000.00
Côté, Catherine Mar. 22, 2020 $8,000.00
Chun, Wendy H.K. Apr. 1, 2020 $20,000.00
CIVIX Nov. 15, 2018 $23,000.00
CIVIX Apr 1, 2022 $1,000,000.00
Colasante, Tyler Jan. 1, 2020 $10,000.00
Concordia University Oct. 1, 2020 $39,270.00
Concordia University Aug 1, 2021 $90,536.00
Concordia University Apr 30, 2022 $50,000.00
Conflict And Resilience Research Institute Apr 1, 2022 $47,500.00
Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, David Jones Dec. 17, 2019 $49,916.00
David Morin, Marie-Ève Carignan Dec. 4, 2020 $44,838.00
Digital Public Square Mar. 1, 2020 $679,176.00
Digital Public Square May 1, 2022 $999,970.00
Disinfowatch Apr 4, 2022 $49,800.00
Evans, Jennifer V. Apr. 1, 2020 $20,000.00
Evidence For Democracy May 1, 2022 $47,500.00
Fleerackers, Alice L. Jan. 1, 2020 $10,000.00
Gingras, Marie-Pier Jan. 1, 2020 $10,000.00
Grisdale, Sean E. Jan. 1, 2020 $10,000.00
Historica Canada Jun 1, 2022 $50,000.00
Hodson, Jaigris N. Apr. 1, 2020 $20,000.00
Indigenous Culture And Media Innovations Aug 1, 2021 $100,000.00
Institute For Canadian Citizenship Mar. 24, 2020 $490,880.00
Institute For Democracy, Media & Culture Jul. 27, 2020 $35,750.00
Institute On Governance Oct. 1, 2020 $100,000.00
International Republican Institute Mar. 15, 2019 $2,973,531.00
Internews Network Mar. 19, 2020 $3,172,323.00
Institut Canadien De Recherche Sur Les Minorités Linguistiques Aug 2, 2021 $100,000.00
IRIS Communications Oct. 1, 2020 $99,500.00
JHR – Journalists for Human Rights Jun. 1, 2019 $250,691.00
JHR – Journalists for Human Rights Jul. 14, 2020 $1,479,856.00
Ketchum, Alexandra D. Mar. 22, 2020 $23,455.00
Kingdom Acts Foundation Sep. 1, 2020 $70,500.00
Lavigne, Mathieu Jan. 1, 2020 $10,000.00
Lennox, Rebecca Jan. 1, 2020 $10,000.00
Les 3 Sex/The 3 Sex Aug 30, 2021 $100,000.00
Macewan University Nov. 1, 2020 $69,000.00
Mack, Amy C. Jan. 1, 2020 $10,000.00
Magazines Canada May 15, 2019 $63,000.00
Manchester Metropolitan University Feb. 1, 2020 $214,837.00
Matthews, Kyle Apr. 20, 2020 $33,377.00
McLevey, John V.P. Apr. 1, 2020 $20,000.00
Mediasmarts Apr 1, 2022 $50,000.00
Moisse, Katie Mar. 22, 2020 $13,417.00
Nathalie Furrer Aug. 10, 2020 $10,000.00
Nelson, Kim A. Mar. 22, 2020 $24,498.00
Neubauer, Robert J. Jan. 1, 2020 $10,000.00
Org. For Economic Co-Operation/Development Oct 15, 2021 $40,000.00
PeaceGeeks Society Nov. 11, 2015 $46,200.00
Pennycook, Gordon R. Apr. 1, 2020 $20,000.00
QuantSpark Foundation Feb. 26, 2020 $1,155,622.00
Royal Institution For The Advancement Of Learning Jul 1, 2022 $50,000.00
Rupantar Oct. 28, 2018 $24,996.00
Ruslan Stefanov, Director, Jul. 3, 2018 $15,000.00
Ryerson University Apr. 1, 2019 $290,250.00
Ryerson University Jan. 1, 2020 $225,300.00
Ryerson University Sep. 18, 2020 $97,407.00
Ryerson University May 1, 2022 $50,000.00
Science North Sep. 1, 2020 $40,000.00
Simon Fraser University Jan. 19, 2019 $28,750.00
Simon Fraser University – Int’l Cybercrime Research Oct. 1, 2020 $96,600.00
Taylor, Emily Jan. 1, 2020 $33,250.00
Trybun Jan. 21, 2019 $7,114.00
Universite De Montreal Faculte Des Sciences Sep 1, 2021 $92,000.00
University Of Alberta Jul 1, 2021 $99,948.00
University Of Toronto Sep 1, 2021 $58,728.00
University Of Waterloo Jul 2, 2021 $100,000.00
Young, Hilary A.N. Apr. 1, 2020 $20,000.00
York University Nov. 1, 2020 $99,956.00

Note: since this list was originally used, it seems a few of the names have been reclassified (as to whether they are part of the DCCP). Nonetheless, these are all still projects that were funded by public tax dollars. Now, what areas are being funded?

(a) First research projects call for proposals (closed November 1, 2019)
This call for proposals sought projects that met at least 1 of the following priorities:

-research projects, where activities have a positive domestic impact on Canada or Canadians, and include primary research, such as surveys, interviews, field experiments, or lab-based experiments, as well as secondary research such as literature reviews and meta-analyses; production and analysis of datasets; and creation of tools such as software programs to support research
-evaluation projects, where activities will seek to evaluate the impact of existing Canadian or international programming and research addressing disinformation and other online harms

(b) Second research projects call for proposals (closed on September 18, 2020)
This call for proposals sought projects that met at least 1 of the following priorities, with a maximum funding ask of $100,000/project:

-projects that aim to map/predict the next issues and/or types of online disinformation and other related harms that Canada and/or Canadians might face, how they could be tackled, and by whom
-projects that aim to help better understand the impact of disinformation and related harms on diverse and marginalized communities in Canada, with a gender-based analysis lens
-projects that aim to understand the societal factors and psychological characteristics that motivate individuals to take up the call for online and offline disinformation related activities
-projects that aim to understand the impacts of a lack of exposure to diverse content online, including understanding how users access reliable news and information in Canada, as well as the impacts of algorithmic systems on the content users are exposed to and consume on online platforms

(c) Third research projects call for proposals (closed on May 28, 2021)
This call for proposals sought projects that met at least 1 of the following priorities, and under this call, successful recipients received funding up to $100,000:

-projects that aims to understand the role of algorithms, artificial intelligence, and other system-level factors on mainstream and fringe online platforms as they pertain to the spread, uptake, and impacts of disinformation and related harms, including on user behaviour and content consumption, and their potential uses towards a diverse and healthy information ecosystem;
-projects that aims to understand the domestic and transnational spread, evolution, and impacts of online disinformation and related harms through and on diaspora, Indigenous, and non-English primary language communities in Canada using a GBA+ lens, including impacts on societal outcomes; or
-projects that aims to evaluate existing Canadian or international research and programming related to online disinformation and their effectiveness in furthering positive societal outcomes, such as citizen resilience, social inclusion, media literacy, and participation and trust in democratic processes.

(d) Special COVID-19 calls (closed July 31, 2020)
The Digital Citizen Contribution launched 2 special COVID-19 calls for proposals. The first call provided up to $3.5 million in funding to amplify the efforts of 10 organizations supporting citizens to think critically about the health information they find online, to identify mis- and disinformation, and limit the impact of racist and/or misleading social media posts relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The second call also aimed to amplify the efforts of organizations supporting citizens to think critically about the health information they find online, to identify mis- and disinformation, and limit the impact of racist and/or misleading social media posts relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. This call provided time-limited financial assistance to 24 projects of up to $40,000 per project.

(e) Special Ukraine Crisis Call (closed on April 1, 2022)
In the light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, this special call is aimed to address the growing spread of harmful misinformation and disinformation. The special targeted call was launched to fund initiatives that help people identify misinformation and disinformation online.

As the pandemic continues into its third year and the Russian invasion of Ukraine now threatens democracies around the world, we need to do more to counter the growing spread of harmful misinformation and disinformation. Today, the Honourable Pablo Rodriguez, Minister of Canadian Heritage, announced the launch of a special, targeted call for proposals totalling $2.5 million to fund initiatives that help people identify misinformation and disinformation online.

Through the Government’s Digital Citizen Initiative (DCI), Canadians can respond and help in the global efforts to counter misinformation and disinformation. The DCI supports democracy and social cohesion in Canada by building citizen resilience against misinformation and disinformation, and building partnerships to support a healthy digital information society.

Of course, there’s no mention that the authorities themselves routinely engage in misinformation and outright deception.

Not only are mainstream outlets controlled and funded by Government, but these grants make it difficult to trust anyone. Even independents may be suspect if they are dependent on money from interested parties.

(1) https://search.open.canada.ca/grants/
(2) https://search.open.canada.ca/grants/?sort=agreement_start_date+desc&page=2&search_text=%22digital+citizen+contribution+program%22
(3) https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/news/2022/03/government-of-canada-reinforces-support-to-organizations-to-help-counter-harmful-disinformation.html
(4) https://ppforum.ca/articles/digital-democracy-project-to-examine-online-disinformation/
(5) https://mediasmarts.ca/media-literacy-week
(6) https://en.unesco.org/creativity/policy-monitoring-platform/digital-citizen-initiative
(7) https://canucklaw.ca/digital-citizen-contribution-program/
(8) https://canucklaw.ca/digital-citizen-contribution-program-next-round-of-grants/
(9) https://canucklaw.ca/digital-citizen-contribution-program-the-paris-call/