Canadian Federal Government Shoots Down Proposed Québec Online Gambling Site Blacklist



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In May, the Canadian province of Québec passed its budget bill, Bill 74, which is normally very boring to the average person, but this bill contained a twist that outraged a lot of people. Bill 74 authorized the province to require internet service providers (ISPs) to block any online gambling site that was not licensed by the provincial government. This differs from other laws we are used to in various countries and states that simply say that unlicensed sites are illegal; this is actually a form of internet censorship, deputizing the ISPs to play the role of sheriff.

Québec Finance Minister Carlos Leitao said that the goal here is to protect citizens, that it is for “the health and safety” of Québec residents, but in reality, the aim of a site blacklist is to protect the government-run monopoly on internet gaming. Loto-Québec, the government’s lottery commission, operates Espacejeux, the only licensed online gambling site in Québec. Loto-Québec got the online gaming site ban language inserted into Bill 74; the budget even says that the ban would boost internet gambling revenue for the government by $13.5 million in 2016-2017 and $27 million per year thereafter.

Fortunately, it looks like the Canadian federal government isn’t going to stand for this tomfoolery. The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) recently issued a statement saying that the online gaming ban violates Canadian law. That law from the Telecommunications Act:

Except where the Commission approves otherwise, a Canadian carrier shall not control the content or influence the meaning or purpose of telecommunications carried by it for the public.

The best part is that not only did the CRTC say that the law is unconstitutional, but it also called the Finance Minister on his bullshit, saying, “The Commission is exclusively responsible for the administration of this provision and will remain so, regardless of any finding with respect to the constitutionality of section 12 of Bill 74.”

In other words, “It doesn’t matter if the online gambling site ban is constitutional or not. It’s a shit law and we’re not going to enforce it or make ISPs enforce it.”

In a bit more detail:

Consistent with the above, the Commission is of the preliminary view that the Act prohibits the blocking by Canadian carriers of access by end-users to specific websites on the Internet, whether or not this blocking is the result of an ITMP (Internet Traffic Management Practices). Consequently, any such blocking is unlawful without prior Commission approval, which would only be given where it would further the telecommunications policy objectives. Accordingly, compliance with other legal or juridical requirements—whether municipal, provincial, or foreign—does not in and of itself justify the blocking of specific websites by Canadian carriers, in the absence of Commission approval under the Act.

The provincial attorneys general still have a couple weeks during which they can speak up, but even if some object, it is doubtful that the Commission will care.

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