‘Trumpian tactics’: Experts slam heritage minister for tweet attacking critics of Bill C-10

Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault sparked backlash after quoting an article on Monday that accused Bill C-10’s critics of being manipulated by commercial interests.It was posted by the minister soon after Liberal MPs backed putting the bill on hold at a Monday heritage committee hearing so that the Department of Justice could determine whether it infringes on the Charter rights of social media users.The minister’s post marked an escalation in an ongoing and heated debate over whether the bill infringes on people’s freedom of expression. Bill C-10 proposes changes to the Broadcasting Act, which hasn’t been updated since 1991, that would alter how the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) regulates the internet in an age of massive streaming services that, like Netflix, operate in Canada but are based in foreign countries.“We are now witnessing public opinion being manipulated at scale through a deliberate campaign of misinformation by commercial interests that would prefer to avoid the same regulatory oversight applied to broadcast media,” says Guilbeault’s tweet, which is a quote from the article.For Vivek Krishnamurthy, a law professor at the University of Ottawa and internet policy expert, that rhetoric smacked of “Trumpian tactics” aimed at critics like him.“That was a dangerously irresponsible tweet by a minister of the Canadian government of the kind that I never want to see a Canadian elected official making,” he said during an interview with the Star.“He is accusing critics of the bill of engaging in a misinformation campaign funded by corporations. Sounds an awful lot, to me, like the kinds of allegations Donald Trump would lob around of ‘fake news.’”The controversial bill has been panned by some legal experts and civil rights advocates for ushering in regulations that could impact everyday social media users who upload to platforms like YouTube and TikTok.Gord Dimitrieff, the author of the article Guilbeault cited, titled ‘The C-10 backlash is both predictable and dangerous,’ sits on the board of the Canadian Independent Music Association. He wrote that there’s been “a well-documented pattern of financing sympathetic research at universities and think tanks” by web giants.He linked to several articles in the Financial Times, NY Magazine, the New York Times and Wired that had done stories on how big-tech companies operate.In an interview with the Star, Dimitrieff said the assertion his article makes about the debate in Canada is “all, I guess, circumstantial.”“I guess my point with what I wrote was just to kind of get people out of the bill and kind of look at the bigger issue here,” he said. “You have a number of unaccountable companies pursuing their own commercial agendas, perhaps at the expense of democracy.”In a statement sent to the Star on Tuesday, Guilbeault said he shared the article because it talks about “the lack of accountability from the private social media platforms towards citizens, and the government’s ability to create frameworks and guidelines to demand accountability from the social media giants.”He did not answer a question sent by the Star about whether he believed public opinion was being manipulated by commercial interests.But several academics who spoke to the Star on Tuesday about Guilbeault’s promotion of the article said they have significant concerns about the discourse around Bill C-10. They also worry that their concerns about the bill won’t be addressed if the article is representative of how Guilbeault thinks about criticism of the legislation.“Every sort of attempt to make well-meaning critiques of this legislation is met with allegations that, you know, people are lying and misrepresenting things,” said Tamir Israel, a lawyer with the Samuelson-Glushko Canadian internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic.“I try to not take these things personally,” he added, “but I find that really disconcerting in terms of what it means for the policy-making process.”The heritage minister has been defending the bill from critics and opposition MPs for weeks after, in the eleventh hour of its development by heritage committee members, a section exempting user-generated content on social media was removed.The removal sparked an uproar from legal experts and academics who said it could infringe on freedom of expression rights. As of Monday, it is on hold until the justice department determines whether it could infringe on Canadian Charter rights and the committee hears from a panel of experts.The Liberals have introduced an amendment to the bill which would give the CRTC the ability to ask social media companies for information about revenue generated from Canadians, the power to require them to invest money in Canadian productions and also make it easier for users to discover Canadian content.Kieran Leavitt is an Edmonton-based political reporter for the Toronto Star. Follow him on Twitter: @kieranleavitt

‘Trumpian tactics’: Experts slam heritage minister for tweet attacking critics of Bill C-10

Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault sparked backlash after quoting an article on Monday that accused Bill C-10’s critics of being manipulated by commercial interests.

It was posted by the minister soon after Liberal MPs backed putting the bill on hold at a Monday heritage committee hearing so that the Department of Justice could determine whether it infringes on the Charter rights of social media users.

The minister’s post marked an escalation in an ongoing and heated debate over whether the bill infringes on people’s freedom of expression.

Bill C-10 proposes changes to the Broadcasting Act, which hasn’t been updated since 1991, that would alter how the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) regulates the internet in an age of massive streaming services that, like Netflix, operate in Canada but are based in foreign countries.

“We are now witnessing public opinion being manipulated at scale through a deliberate campaign of misinformation by commercial interests that would prefer to avoid the same regulatory oversight applied to broadcast media,” says Guilbeault’s tweet, which is a quote from the article.

For Vivek Krishnamurthy, a law professor at the University of Ottawa and internet policy expert, that rhetoric smacked of “Trumpian tactics” aimed at critics like him.

“That was a dangerously irresponsible tweet by a minister of the Canadian government of the kind that I never want to see a Canadian elected official making,” he said during an interview with the Star.

“He is accusing critics of the bill of engaging in a misinformation campaign funded by corporations. Sounds an awful lot, to me, like the kinds of allegations Donald Trump would lob around of ‘fake news.’”

The controversial bill has been panned by some legal experts and civil rights advocates for ushering in regulations that could impact everyday social media users who upload to platforms like YouTube and TikTok.

Gord Dimitrieff, the author of the article Guilbeault cited, titled ‘The C-10 backlash is both predictable and dangerous,’ sits on the board of the Canadian Independent Music Association. He wrote that there’s been “a well-documented pattern of financing sympathetic research at universities and think tanks” by web giants.

He linked to several articles in the Financial Times, NY Magazine, the New York Times and Wired that had done stories on how big-tech companies operate.

In an interview with the Star, Dimitrieff said the assertion his article makes about the debate in Canada is “all, I guess, circumstantial.”

“I guess my point with what I wrote was just to kind of get people out of the bill and kind of look at the bigger issue here,” he said. “You have a number of unaccountable companies pursuing their own commercial agendas, perhaps at the expense of democracy.”

In a statement sent to the Star on Tuesday, Guilbeault said he shared the article because it talks about “the lack of accountability from the private social media platforms towards citizens, and the government’s ability to create frameworks and guidelines to demand accountability from the social media giants.”

He did not answer a question sent by the Star about whether he believed public opinion was being manipulated by commercial interests.

But several academics who spoke to the Star on Tuesday about Guilbeault’s promotion of the article said they have significant concerns about the discourse around Bill C-10. They also worry that their concerns about the bill won’t be addressed if the article is representative of how Guilbeault thinks about criticism of the legislation.

“Every sort of attempt to make well-meaning critiques of this legislation is met with allegations that, you know, people are lying and misrepresenting things,” said Tamir Israel, a lawyer with the Samuelson-Glushko Canadian internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic.

“I try to not take these things personally,” he added, “but I find that really disconcerting in terms of what it means for the policy-making process.”

The heritage minister has been defending the bill from critics and opposition MPs for weeks after, in the eleventh hour of its development by heritage committee members, a section exempting user-generated content on social media was removed.

The removal sparked an uproar from legal experts and academics who said it could infringe on freedom of expression rights. As of Monday, it is on hold until the justice department determines whether it could infringe on Canadian Charter rights and the committee hears from a panel of experts.

The Liberals have introduced an amendment to the bill which would give the CRTC the ability to ask social media companies for information about revenue generated from Canadians, the power to require them to invest money in Canadian productions and also make it easier for users to discover Canadian content.

Kieran Leavitt is an Edmonton-based political reporter for the Toronto Star. Follow him on Twitter: @kieranleavitt

Source : Toronto Star More   

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Ontario hasn’t ruled out reopening schools where COVID cases low, but concerns remain

The Ontario government has not ruled out reopening schools for in-person classes in June in areas with low COVID rates, but remains concerned about any potential risk involved in doing so, sources say. With less than two months left in the school year, a growing number of the country’s top pediatric experts say the province should allow students back into class where it’s safe to do so, given the devastating impact the pandemic and resulting social isolation has had on their mental health and well-being.Sources told the Star that’s not out of the question — but it will be up to the chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, to make the call.On Monday, Williams said he too wants to see schools reopen first and would like to do so “as soon as we can,” although the province is now preparing to extend it stay-at-home order until June 2. NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said Tuesday that she has “always thought it was achievable to get our kids back into schools, but (Premier) Doug Ford hasn’t wanted to spend the money. We know that schools are important for kids, not only academically and pedagogically, but also because it helps with their mental health and socialization skills.“It would be really great to have kids back in school.”However, she is calling on the government to first reduce class sizes and expand rapid testing, among other things.“If he invested the way he should have, our kids wouldn’t have to be out of school for as much time as they have been,” she said Tuesday at Queen’s Park.The province has provided boards with more than $1.3 billion in additional funding for the pandemic this school year, though that figure includes federal money as well as access to the boards’ own reserves.“We know how critical it is to have children in school for their mental health, well-being and development,” said Caitlin Clark, spokesperson for Education Minister Stephen Lecce. “Our focus remains on tackling high rates of community transmission, which includes the stay-at-home order, dedicating more vaccines to hot spots, and the need for real action at the border to deny variants from entering our country. With all education workers now eligible for vaccines, we are ensuring every front line worker in our schools and child care settings can get vaccinated.”She added that “we all want children to return to in-class learning. We will continue to follow the best advice of Dr. Williams on the way forward with a singular focus on protecting families and communities from these variants.”Ontario teacher unions say while they too want to return to in-person learning, but expect proper measures be put in place.“The Ford government cannot simply switch schools on and off and hope for the best,” said Liz Stuart, president of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association, adding that the province “must ensure that teachers and education workers who need it have access to the vaccine before returning to the classroom.”Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, said his union “firmly believes that in-person instruction is the best and most equitable experience for students, but it must be done safely.”His union is also asking that the government provide teachers and school staff with N95 masks instead of the medical-grade masks currently funded. All schools were closed by the province for in-person classes in mid-April, indefinitely.Kristin Rushowy is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @krushowy

Ontario hasn’t ruled out reopening schools where COVID cases low, but concerns remain

The Ontario government has not ruled out reopening schools for in-person classes in June in areas with low COVID rates, but remains concerned about any potential risk involved in doing so, sources say.

With less than two months left in the school year, a growing number of the country’s top pediatric experts say the province should allow students back into class where it’s safe to do so, given the devastating impact the pandemic and resulting social isolation has had on their mental health and well-being.

Sources told the Star that’s not out of the question — but it will be up to the chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, to make the call.

On Monday, Williams said he too wants to see schools reopen first and would like to do so “as soon as we can,” although the province is now preparing to extend it stay-at-home order until June 2.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said Tuesday that she has “always thought it was achievable to get our kids back into schools, but (Premier) Doug Ford hasn’t wanted to spend the money. We know that schools are important for kids, not only academically and pedagogically, but also because it helps with their mental health and socialization skills.

“It would be really great to have kids back in school.”

However, she is calling on the government to first reduce class sizes and expand rapid testing, among other things.

“If he invested the way he should have, our kids wouldn’t have to be out of school for as much time as they have been,” she said Tuesday at Queen’s Park.

The province has provided boards with more than $1.3 billion in additional funding for the pandemic this school year, though that figure includes federal money as well as access to the boards’ own reserves.

“We know how critical it is to have children in school for their mental health, well-being and development,” said Caitlin Clark, spokesperson for Education Minister Stephen Lecce.

“Our focus remains on tackling high rates of community transmission, which includes the stay-at-home order, dedicating more vaccines to hot spots, and the need for real action at the border to deny variants from entering our country. With all education workers now eligible for vaccines, we are ensuring every front line worker in our schools and child care settings can get vaccinated.”

She added that “we all want children to return to in-class learning. We will continue to follow the best advice of Dr. Williams on the way forward with a singular focus on protecting families and communities from these variants.”

Ontario teacher unions say while they too want to return to in-person learning, but expect proper measures be put in place.

“The Ford government cannot simply switch schools on and off and hope for the best,” said Liz Stuart, president of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association, adding that the province “must ensure that teachers and education workers who need it have access to the vaccine before returning to the classroom.”

Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, said his union “firmly believes that in-person instruction is the best and most equitable experience for students, but it must be done safely.”

His union is also asking that the government provide teachers and school staff with N95 masks instead of the medical-grade masks currently funded.

All schools were closed by the province for in-person classes in mid-April, indefinitely.

Kristin Rushowy is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @krushowy

Source : Toronto Star More   

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