In the News April 26
In the Parliament
Self-Serving Laws and Regulations in the Name of Opposing Hate Promotion
On March 16, the Canadian Radio-Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) announced that Russia Today (RT) and RT France are no longer authorized for TV airing in Canada. The ruling did not change anything in terms of television programming because the cable companies carrying RT had already voluntarily taken it off air. Nor does the official ban prevent Canadians from accessing RT online. It does, however, set a precedent for the CRTC using controversial government policy in the exercise of its regulatory duties.
In a brief press release, the CRTC states it has, “determined that the continued authorization to distribute RT and RT France is not in the public interest.” It says that RT’s programming is “not consistent with the standards against which Canadian services are measured nor the policy objectives set out in the Broadcasting Act.”
The CRTC says “it is also concerned with programming from a foreign country that seeks to undermine the sovereignty of another country, demean Canadians of a particular ethnic background and undermine democratic institutions within Canada.” This is a historic first for the CRTC which has never expressed concern about the role of U.S.-favourable media supporting the undermining of the sovereignty of Cuba, Venezuela or any other country.
A March 2 Liberal Cabinet decree (order-in-council), as permitted by the Broadcasting Act, ordered the CRTC to conduct a review of RT and RT France, both approved for airing in Canada in 2009 and 2020 respectively. The Liberal government expressed concerns that the two news services violate Canadian broadcasting policy and directed the CRTC to hold hearings starting no later than March 3 and to issue a decision “as soon as feasible,” no later than March 16. For its part, the CRTC set a deadline of March 8 — one week — for submissions.
Of note, the online submissions for the CRTC hearings required the provision of personal details, such as email and address, all of which are published on the CRTC website. This is done in a climate where government and military officials and many media outlets, along with groups and organizations such as those which have been calling for RT to be banned, have instigated anti-Russian feelings thereby inciting physical attacks on ordinary Russians as well as encouraging the summary ostracization and outlawing of Russian personalities in fields of music, sports and games. To require the submission of personal data is thus not conducive to all individuals freely expressing their opinions.
Furthermore, in its call for submissions, the CRTC conveyed its “preliminary view” to rule against RT, along with the Liberal Government’s predisposition to take the news stations down. For instance, the CRTC informed potential interveners that “RT’s programming may not be consistent with the Commission’s broadcasting regulations, in particular the abusive comment provisions,” and that “it may be antithetical to the policy objectives” of Canadian broadcasting. It called for interveners to “submit evidence with respect to RT remaining on the list [of approved non-Canadian programs.]”
The CRTC issued its ruling in record time, even before the token two week period it was given to draw conclusions. In a 15-page ruling, the CRTC reports on its “hearings” and approach to the review, saying it went into the hearings “seeking to substantiate its concern” that “RT tended to or was likely to expose the Ukrainian people to hatred or contempt on the basis of their race, national or ethnic origin, with such hatred or contempt being born out in the attacks by Russia.”
Its aim was to substantiate its opinion that the “abusive comment provisions” in the Broadcast Act regulations were being violated. This refers to “any abusive comment or abusive pictorial representation that, when taken in context, tends to or is likely to expose an individual or a group or class of individuals to hatred or contempt on the basis of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, sexual orientation, age or mental or physical disability.”
The CRTC reports that it received 373 interventions, with 350 in support of RT’s removal and 16 opposing. (It doesn’t account for the remaining seven.) Most interventions, it says, were from individuals, with “many contain[ing] strong condemnation of Russian aggression in Ukraine and general statements about Russian state-owned media, which was not always limited to RT, and the impact that it had on the perception of Ukrainians.”
“Several interveners,” the CRTC writes, “made comments regarding the promotion of toxic narratives, propaganda, lies and conspiracy theories on Russian-state media, including RT, and noted that the narrative was designed to spread hate against Russia’s critics and enemies and undermine western democracies.”
It adds that “few provided concrete evidence to support their position,” and provides excuses according to which the short notice and duration of the hearings probably account for this.
In fact, the vast majority of submissions were templated, such as one declaring: “The Russian regime is systematically committing crimes against humanity and war crimes in Russia’s unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine. It is entirely inappropriate for Russian-state owned or controlled media to broadcast in Canada. I strongly support RT and all other Russian state media being removed from Canadian airwaves and the internet in Canada. I call on the Government of Canada to immediately ban RT and all other Russian state media from broadcasting on TV or radio in Canada and to block all the websites and social media accounts of Russian state media.”
Five commercial organizations, including Chapman Ice Cream, also said no to RT, the CRTC reports.
According to the CRTC, “several groups representing Ukrainians and other Eastern European groups … provided content.” There were five such groups: the Ukrainian Canadian Congress – Toronto Branch, the Estonian Central Council in Canada, Central and Eastern European Council in Canada, Capital Ukrainian Festival and the Canadian Polish Congress, all of whom supported RT’s banning.
The fact that these all qualify as virulently anti-Russian organizations is not taken as a factor in judging the merits of their views. The fact that they have no objectivity of consideration in deliberating on the matter at hand should in fact have disqualified them unless they strictly addressed not their ideological beliefs but the matters of concern to Canadian broadcasting based on the interests of the Canadian people, not the interest of NATO and official circles. These two concerns are clearly not the same.
The CRTC informs that the “Central and Eastern European Council in Canada (CEEC) submitted that Russian-language state media broadcast and viewed by the Russian community in Canada promotes hate towards the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Canada and the Central and Eastern European communities in Canada. […] The CEEC also cited a January 17, 2019 broadcast by CBC which dealt with ‘a popular Russian-state media show,’ without naming it, that claimed that ‘Canada is harbouring Ukrainian fascists who are directing anti-Russian policies by the Canadian government’ which is deemed to be Putin’s ‘false claims.’ Such claims, “threaten to marginalize the Ukrainian community and delegitimize them as Canadian citizens.”
“Furthermore,” the CRTC continues, “the Commission notes the submissions which indicate the promotion of hatred towards Ukrainian-Canadians on Russian-state broadcasters as well as the promotion of hatred of Canada and its allies. Statements referring to Canada, ‘harbouring Ukrainian fascists’ and the portrayal of Canada, NATO and the West as enemies could be considered to constitute abusive comment in that they tended to or were likely to expose Ukrainian-Canadians or Canadians generally to hatred or contempt on the basis of their race, national or ethnic origin.”
In this regard, the CRTC concluded that it is “gravely concerned by the promotion of hatred towards Ukrainian-Canadians on Russian-state broadcasters and programming which seeks to undermine the democratic institutions within Canada as well as promote hatred of Canada and its allies.”
In all of this, the particulars of how the examples provided constitute hate speech was never in fact discussed. Instead, the CRTC jumps to expressing its alleged support for diversity and alternative perspectives. Referring to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, amongst other rights documents, the CRTC says that its policy framework is one that “recognizes the inherent value that non-Canadian services play in bringing diversity and alternative perspective to Canadians.”
These alternative perspectives can “enrich and strengthen the cultural, political, social and economic fabric of Canada; they can serve the needs and interests of Canadians, including those of different cultural or racial backgrounds; and they can bring an international perspective to the Canadian broadcasting landscape.”
It adds that while the “dangers of one-sided media and the importance of diversity of viewpoints have merit and form the basis of the Commission’s (approval process for non-Canadian services), the Commission must weigh the benefits of this approach against the other policy objectives and the overall regulation of the broadcasting system.”
“The act of a government constraining journalists and independent voices is antithetical to this key principle [of freedom of expression and journalistic independence from government] underpins the Canadian broadcasting system and must not be borne lightly,” the CRTC writes.
All of this reference to journalistic rights and freedoms, is not for purposes of gauging the impact of the CRTC’s decision. It diverts from its own actions by judging Russia. It says, “The Commission therefore finds that the actions of the Russian government in limiting journalistic independence of independent news agencies within the country and in directing the content on RT and other state-run broadcasting services goes against this fundamental aspect of the Canadian broadcasting system.”
Finally, to those who are concerned about “freedom of expression and censorship” in Canada, “the Commission notes that Canadians will still be able to access the content on other platforms, such as the Internet, should they so choose.”
What the CRTC does not address is the significance of the national broadcasting regulator taking a position which deems opposition to NATO and its allies akin to “abusive comment” — also known as “hate speech.” This is particularly so given that the CRTC will be one of the regulatory agencies involved in policing online speech if the Liberal government succeeds in having its soon to be tabled anti-hate speech legislation adopted.
Turning the aggressive U.S.-dominated NATO into an entity protected by anti-hate speech and characterizing those who oppose NATO as hate-mongers constitutes a fundamental violation of freedom of political speech. It is also an indication of the aversion of the government of Canada, the parties which form the cartel party system and official circles in the state and its institutions to permit any discussion in the polity, especially when it relates to matters of profound concern about war and peace.
To be in lockstep with U.S./ NATO warmongering and to do so by having recourse to virulently pro-NATO and anti-communist ethnic organizations known to be supporters of the revival of Nazi forces within their own countries of origin, some of which fund memorials to known Nazi war criminals, is not an honourable path by any stretch of the imagination. On the contrary, it is a matter of grave concern to Canadians who gave their all during World War II to defeat the Nazis, fascists and militarists and never again permit their resurgence. The path the pro-war establishment is embarked on to silence the voice of those who are known opponents of NATO and NORAD and demand they be dismantled is reckless. Canadian forces must only be used for the defence of Canada, not as tools of aggression and war and the striving of the U.S. to dominate the world.
1. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
Renewal Update, posted April 26, 2022.