Quebec cannot block access to websites without the approval of the CRTC

Bill 74 has faced opposition due to its controversial implications.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, CRTC, said Quebec cannot force Internet companies to block people’s access to certain websites without its approval.

Canada.- In a preliminary opinion released by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, CRTC, the regulator said Quebec cannot force Internet companies to block people’s access to certain websites without its approval.

Under federal telecom law only the CRTC can legally order websites be blocked, “and this would require exceptional circumstances,” said Danielle May-Cuconato secretary general in a letter sent to all attorneys general in Canada.

The CRTC was responding to an application filed back in July by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC), which asked the broadcast regulator to declare that Quebec’s Internet violates the right of freedom of expression and the 1993 Telecommunications Act.

Carlos Leitao Quebec Finance Minister affirmed the law is necessary to ensure online gambling companies maintain responsible gaming policies. The controversial Bill 74 grants provincial gaming authority Loto-Quebec the right to draw up a list of gambling companies operating outside the provincial online platform, called espacejeux.com. Internet service providers would then be forced, under threat of financial penalty, to block Quebecers’ access to these sites.

John Lawford, PIAC executive director, explained that this preliminary opinion clears up the CRTC’s position for the upcoming court case. Lawford cautioned that the CRTC decision was only preliminary and that his office and the Quebec government have two weeks to respond in writing.

“I think it’s as clear as the CRTC can be at the moment,” said Lawford in an interview Friday. “That they are thinking website blocking violates the telecom act.”

The act states “Except where the Commission (the CRTC) approves otherwise, a Canadian carrier shall not control the content or influence the meaning or purpose of telecommunications carried by it for the public.”