Taking Stock: Canada’s Digital Charter

Feb 29, 2024
Digital Standards

It’s been five years since the federal government introduced its Digital Charter, setting out principles to ensure Canada fully leverages the digital economy while protecting Canadians.

Since then, the government has introduced several laws to put those principles in place. A centerpiece of this effort is Bill C-27, which aims to replace Canada’s private sector privacy law (PIPEDA) with the Consumer

Privacy Protection Act and introduce new rules for organizations leveraging AI systems. The CMA has been heavily involved on both of these files, and you can read more on our privacy reform and artificial intelligence regulation webpages.

Read on for an update on other federal bills redefining the digital landscape.

Online streaming services

The Online Streaming Act (or Bill C-11) became law in April 2023 and is intended to ensure that content made by Canadian and Indigenous creators is widely available across Canada.

The new law brings any streaming service operating in Canada and earning $10 million or more in annual revenues under regulation by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

Platforms that meet these qualifiers will be subjected to Canadian content requirements and regulations similar to those for traditional broadcasters. For social media and streaming platforms, this means investing millions into Canadian content and creators as well as promoting Canadian content through their services.

The CRTC will not regulate content from digital creators, influencers and social media users, nor the algorithms used by online streaming services – areas that were highly controversial when an earlier version of the bill was announced.

The CRTC has released a regulatory plan for the bill. Consultations on the plan are underway and the CRTC will begin to implement final policy decisions in late 2024.

Online news

The Online News Act (or Bill C-18) became law in June 2023. It is intended to ensure that the Canadian news sector can continue to operate freely and sustainably in an age where a large proportion of online content is accessible at no cost.

The law requires that digital platforms with “strategic market dominance” pay Canadian news outlets when news content is reached through a link on one of their products.

The CRTC plans to publish a framework and accompanying code of conduct for this legislation in 2024.

Cybersecurity for systems affecting public safety

Bill C-26 was introduced in June 2023. It aims to 1) amend the Telecommunications Act and 2) enact the Critical Cyber Systems Act.

Part 1 aims to ensure telecommunications service providers take specific steps to secure the Canadian telecommunications system. It introduces significant enforcement measures, including fines of up to $15 million.

Part 2 intends to protect critical cyber security services and systems that are integral to national security or public safety. It would apply to “designated operators” – entities who control or operate a critical cyber system in the federally regulated telecommunications, finance, energy or transportation sectors. If passed, all designated operators would have 90 days to establish a robust cybersecurity program that meets new requirements.

The bill mirrors a similar approach taken in the US and is currently undergoing second reading in the House of Commons.

Online harms

The newest of the federal government’s suite of digital bills is Bill C-63, the Online Harms Act, tabled on February 26, 2024. The bill aims to make the internet safer for children by limiting their exposure to harmful content online.

Those affected by the bill include social media services, live-streaming services, and user-uploaded adult content services.

The rules are set to be enforced by a newly established Digital Safety Commission, a Digital Safety Ombudsperson, and a Digital Safety Office. See our blog post on the bill for more information.

For questions or comments about the above digital bills, contact the CMA Public Affairs and Governance Team.

Authors:
Fiona Wilson | Director, Public Policy and Chief Privacy Officer | CMA
Marlize Van Sittert | Public Policy Specialist | CMA





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