Article written by Axis Geffen
There’s been a lot of buzz lately about Bill C-10. What should be a simple amendment to the Canadian Broadcasting Act could have serious implications for family law matters. Many already frustrated Canadians grappling with trying to prove evidence in Canadian courts want to know why?
First of all, it’s important to note that Bill C-10 isn’t a new concept or even a new Bill. Tabled in the House of Commons on November 18, 2020, the government intended to update existing broadcasting legislation. For the most part (and simplified) this forces Canadian content providers to provide a set amount of Canadian content. It also pushes them to contribute financially to the creation of future Canadian content. Seems alright on the surface – so where’s the problem?
Clause 10 – The power to make the rules up as we go along.
Under this new Act, the Broadcasting Commission would have the power to create new rules, implement them. And in association with other clauses, it would enforce them however they deemed fit. Due to this new broad power, the commission could legally put a virtual box around anyone however they deemed acceptable. The worry here is that a government that was getting bad press could therefore instruct the commission to put a box around anyone with an opposing view. Even a neutral take on any given topic or the internet as a whole.
While this might seem far-fetched, there are a lot of reasons that those in power might feel compelled to control what we see, access or learn about. In Communist China, the virtual box has existed as long as the internet. Users can only access what the government decides they have permition to. If Bill C-10 passes in its current form, Canada will surpass China’s control level with the most regulated internet in the Free World.
Implications of a Virtual Box on Family Law
Often individuals find information on Social Media or through an online resource to prove or disprove facts in court. If the commission (on its own or through instruction) decided to implement the virtual box, it’s very possible that the evidence would be blocked. You could face penalties for illegally accessing it. Why? Because a lot of the information that individuals, lawyers and even investigators access doesn’t originate in Canada. Under a Canadian content restriction – all of those parties might lose legal access to the information because there isn’t enough Canadian content to permit access.
You may have noticed that there are literally hundreds of websites that post information about cheating spouses, public records searches, etc. You probably never noticed that they aren’t Canadian-based. Although lots of information can be collected from within Canada, it’s generally not hosted by a Canadian company. This is due to existing Privacy Laws, which often protect us from ourselves in the wrong ways.
We as Canadians could face liability for accessing our own Canadian information, despite non-Canadians being able to access that data about us. The problem is that the act of acquiring that information could lead to serious liability if you’re a Canadian.
Even if you are able to find the evidence that you need for court, the majority of research tools, like Spokeo, or Truthfinder, and online preservation tools, like Page Vault, are not Canadian-based. As such your access to them could be removed without notice.
Implications to Everyone
Under the Bill, if you have a Social Media account, or post almost anything, you could be viewed as a Content Provider. The problem with that is the government could read, watch and keep everything you do online. Then they could tax you on the amount of non-Canadian content you create or share. You would of course be able to fight that taxation but only using information that the commission chooses to allow you to have access to.
So let’s say you posted “OMG! My ex just stole my car” but you also re-shared 50 posts that you thought were funny about Trump or Biden. You could be subject to penalties for under-sharing Canadian content. You could also be subject to taxation to promote more Canadian content. If you wanted to fight that charge – you would have to do so with only Canadian-based information. Or with whatever information found outside of Canada that the commission chose to allow you to have. (The catch 22 here is that if you found information outside of Canada that proved you were innocent. You could still be liable financially because you shouldn’t have any way to see that because it’s outside of the virtual box.)
If this seems crazy to you, that’s why so many people are so upset about it. The current government has is trying to push Bill C-10 through with many vague wordings and lots of room for interpretation. Although they have recently stated that they will make further amendments to it that may reduce its scope of power. At the time of this writing, a clean concise draft of the new and improved Bill C-10 remains unavailable. The NDP supports the bill in its current form it could have far-reaching implications. Potentially affecting investigations and evidence collection for years to come.