Quebec's Bill 74 seeks to block gaming sites not approved by government
Internet firms would be expected to block access to sites
A little-publicized bill that is making its way through Quebec's legislative process has digital-law experts and others worried that the concept of a free and open internet is being threatened in the province.
Bill 74 includes a provision that seeks to force internet service providers to block Quebecers' access to online gambling sites that aren't approved by the government.
The province's finance minister, Carlos Leitão, says the bill is needed to protect the health and safety of Quebecers because illegal sites don't apply the same "responsible gaming rules" as sites run by the government and pose a "risk to the population."
However, critics say the Internet-censoring legislation — unprecedented in Canada — is a way for Quebec's state-owned gambling authority to block competition and could lead to governments across the country deciding what citizens can and can't view online.
Moreover, law experts say the legislation violates freedom of expression, contradicts federal telecommunications law and will likely be challenged in court by Internet companies and civil rights groups.
"I think the (Quebec) government doesn't understand the internet and frankly doesn't understand the importance of an open and free Internet," said the University of Ottawa's Michael Geist, a renowned online law expert.