The entirely predictable result of Quebec’s gambling-website-blocking law is coming

Only minutes after it was spotted at the very end of Quebec’s 2015 budget document, the proposal to force Internet service providers to block illegal gambling websites was criticized as being unconstitutional.

In the months that followed, the bill to implement the measure was criticized, by opposition parties, by Internet providers, by public interest groups, by Michael Geist, and by anyone with even a basic understanding of constitutional law in Canada. (Though, strangely, not by some actual independent gambling sites.)

And yet, the government kept pushing the legislation along. During parliamentary committee hearings, Finance Minister Carlos Leitão assured everyone that they had their lawyers look into it and it would pass a challenge. This isn’t a telecommunications bill, he argued, it’s about gambling, consumer protection and health, which are provincial jurisdictions.

When Bill 74 was finally adopted at the National Assembly in May 2016, it was with both opposition parties noting the potential issues (which also included worries about the impact this would have on small ISPs).

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre wasted little time, applying to the CRTC to ask it to declare the bill’s website blocking elements unconstitutional. Meanwhile, the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association launched a challenge in Quebec Superior Court.

On Thursday, the CRTC responded to PIAC’s application, arguing that on the one hand the court case should settle the matter of whether the bill is constitutional, while on the other hand saying that blocking websites is against the federal Telecommunications Act and complying with a provincial law is not justification for doing so.

The CRTC has given parties 15 days to respond to its preliminary findings, and if it doesn’t change its mind, it will suspend the PIAC application until the court case is settled.

The law won’t be implemented until probably 2018 at the earliest because it will take a while for Loto-Québec to set up its end of the system. That should be enough time for the court to decide on this issue, assuming it doesn’t end up being appealed.

In the meantime, we can sit here and shake our heads at all the energy, time and money being wasted by the Quebec government, the CRTC, the court system, Internet providers, PIAC, Loto-Québec and others over provisions of a law that is obviously unconstitutional and probably wouldn’t work even if it wasn’t.

11 thoughts on “The entirely predictable result of Quebec’s gambling-website-blocking law is coming

  1. Media Man

    Wouldn’t work, how so? Is it because would get up and move to Ontario or New York state just to play online poker?
    That desperate or addicted meaning the government was right and justified..
    Maybe I’m missing something here…

      1. Dan Shields

        Claude. Excuse my ignorance. What is a VPN and how would I use it?

        I am in Ottawa but travel to MTL a lot, a lot, a LOT so this would be important.

        Dan Shields

  2. Marc

    Why did they even need this law? Loto Quebec coiuld just tell the OQLF what sites they want blocked since the latter already does that with retail that aren’t compliant with law 101.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      Loto Quebec coiuld just tell the OQLF what sites they want blocked since the latter already does that with retail

      The OQLF does not order ISPs to block websites. Nor does it have any regulatory power over businesses that don’t operate in Quebec.

  3. Sol Boxenbaum

    I have been interviewed by CBC and CTV on this issue and cited as being opposed. Loto Quebec is saying that the operation of gambling sites by others is illegal but if they want to partner up with us it will be acceptable. In reality, Loto Quebec can’t compete with Party Poker or any of the other offshore sites. Incidentally, the only place in North America where these operators of offshore sites can gather for trade shows or exhibits without getting arrested immediately, is in Quebec where the government rents space to them at the Palais de Congres.

  4. dilbert

    The interesting thing here is that regulation of gambling is in fact legal and constitutional, but the methods being used may not be. Basically, it’s well established that the provincial goverments can regulate gaming, lotteries, and the like.

    The problem at hand is that regulating them by blocking sites may not be quite as constitutional. It’s perhaps the expedient method compared to trying to compel sites owned outside of the jurisdiction to comply, but it may not work out.

    The better method i have seen is banning the banks from processing for gaming sites or for allowing their credit and debit cards to be used to pay for gaming. Making it harder to pay generally makes it harder to play.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      The better method i have seen is banning the banks from processing for gaming sites or for allowing their credit and debit cards to be used to pay for gaming.

      Indeed (assuming you can also prevent gambling sites from accepting PayPal or Bitcoin). But, of course, it’s also the federal government that regulates the banks.

      1. dilbert

        Actually, Paypal already does that in the US, not allowing gambling sites to sign up (they use to have sneaky work arounds, but most of them are gone now).

        Banks are a Federal issue, that is true – but Quebec could very likely lead the charge for such a law nationwide.

  5. R. E. Bruce Martin

    Finally, I find a slot to comment…

    Quebec likes to “be too big for its britches” they also like to uise a lot of protectionism for trades and professions relative to other provinces.

    But how many Quebecers really understand the co-dependent consequences of protectionism?

    Protectionism, like most else, including socialism is both a boon and a bane. Too much and the society becomes co-dependent and loses motivation (this was historically proven with the failure of the Soviet 5 year plans following the Russian revolution), but too little, and it becomes a “winner take all”

    In the middle, the 2 problems overlap, making for no ideal possible solution, so all too many simply give up.

    But if as one who LOVES his public speaking, albeit staunchly non-beholding and independent…

    “Personally, I am one who would prefer to “_face the bull by the horns_”, rather than be _obliged_ to face him by the _other end_! I think the impetus sociologically speaks for itself without the need for anyone to hold up some official shingle to make the point!

    I also have a means to graphically demonstrate this (being a retired electronic technician with some 50 years of exposure and work in technology). That application had much potential benefit for speakers in many and diverse topics from technology to interpersonal the motivational and inspirational.

    As for the law, I call it “a legislative futility”, the why might well be easily understood by any and all who might so want to understand.


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