Justice Minister David Lametti reviews his notes before attending a news conference in Ottawa, Friday May 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Justice minister refuses to give opinion on Bill C-10’s potential to undermine rights

Justice minister refuses to give opinion on Bill C-10’s potential to undermine rights

TORONTO — Justice Minister David Lametti told the Commons heritage committee Tuesday said it’s not his role to give a legal opinion on revisions to a bill that aims to regulate internet platforms.

Lametti said that, as a member of the Liberal cabinet, he supports Bill C-10 but as justice minister “I am not here to offer legal advice or opinions … That is something that I never do publicly.”

But that didn’t stop opposition MPs on the committee from grilling Lametti about the implications of removing a section of Bill C-10 last month during clause-by-clause analysis of the legislation.

Conservative MP Rachael Harder, who has insisted for weeks that the legislation was fundamentally changed by the removal of Section 4.1 from the original bill, was first to demand answers.

“Experts in the industry now say that the removal of Section 4.1 takes away the safeguards that were imperative to protect user-generated content. Do you agree with that?” Harder asked.

“I thank you for the question,” Lametti replied. “As I said in my opening remarks, I’m not going to give legal advice. … I don’t give legal advice to committees.”

But Lametti said his department responded to the committee’s concerns last week by providing a document that says the bill meets the requirements of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Lametti sent his deputy minister and other officials to face the all-party committee last Friday, but its members pushed for him to appear in person.

Although none of the opposition MPs on the committee seemed satisfied with what they got from Lametti on Tuesday, it appeared the Liberal MPs had enough support to set the debate aside.

The clause-by-clause analysis is set to resume Wednesday, a necessary step before the bill returns to the Commons for a vote, but the bill’s passage isn’t assured because the Liberal government needs opposition support in the minority Parliament.

If passed, the bill will mark the first major updates to the Broadcasting Act since social media platforms became prevalent.

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