My latest: up yours, Google

Evasive. Duplicitous. Condescending.

If you were to (ironically) do a Google search to find a record of the meeting 69 of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, those would be the words you’d use. Because those words describe — perfectly, accurately — the “testimony” of two Google executives before Members of Parliament last week.

The pair were there to offer up objections to Bill C-18, which would provide Canadian news providers with some degree of compensation for the content that Google — and Facebook, and others — routinely swipe from them, and profit from. C-18 is a fair and reasonable approach to a problem that every modern democracy on Earth faces: Namely, how to keep Google et al. from putting real news media out of business.

The company that owns this newspaper supports C-18, yes, as does every other struggling news organization in Canada. But that is not why this writer supports it: I’m a freelancer, and I easily make my living elsewhere. I support C-18 not simply because it is the right thing to do. I support it because it is the bare minimum of what we must do.

Make no mistake: If C-18 is not passed by Parliament, the consequences will be very dire. The costs will be immense. A diminished democracy, an ill-informed populace, and some of the most obscenely rich companies in the world getting even richer. And even less accountable.

Appearing before the Standing Committee to bleat about C-18 was Sabrina Geremia, a vice-president and “country manager” for Google. With her was Google functionary Jason Kee, who liked to say that he runs lots of “tests.”

One of those “tests,” it turns out, is for Google to punish several million Canadians, and bar their access to news reports. That is, censor Canadian news organizations — cancel them, erase them — because Google doesn’t like what C-18 would do.

What would C-18 do? Require Google and others to share in some of the profit it reaps — US$225 billion a year, last year — from pilfering, and posting, the work of journalists. That’s it. Giving Canadians some credit, and some return, on the work that they do.

In her opening remarks, Google Canada’s “country manager” Geremia wheedled that her company has “worked constructively” with Canada and “offered reasonable and balanced solutions” to resolve their issues with C-18. Some of those solutions, it turns out, are to simply deny Canadians access to information.

Also, in her remarks — which revealed a flair for Orwellian Newspeak that was frankly without equal — Geremia huffed that “C-18 puts a price on free links to web pages, setting a dangerous precedent that threatens the foundations of the open and free flow of information.”

Wow? Did you get that? “Dangerous precedents” are being set, ones that literally “threaten the foundation” of all free speech and knowledge. And here we just thought we were asking Google and their cabal to account for what they purloin.

Anyway. In the question-and-answer section of the meeting, the lead Conservative MP, Marilyn Gladu, revealed herself to be an enthusiastic supplicant for Google, declaring that her party “agreed with some of the concerns” Google had. Said she: “I certainly share your concerns with the bill.”

Well, take note, Canada. The Conservative Party now stands for the proposition that wealthy global multinationals should be able to unfairly profit on the hard work of others. But that’s them.

The Liberals, to my surprise, did much better. Montreal Liberal MP Anthony Housefather was absolutely brilliant in the way he took apart the Google apparatchiks. He pointed out that senior Google executives had come to Canada to lobby behind closed doors — but when the Standing Committee summoned them, they arrogantly refused to come.

He pointed out that Google was supposed to provide its emails and notes about C-18 to the committee in advance and didn’t. Asked repeatedly about that, Geremia blinked a lot and actually said she didn’t understand “the premise” of the question. Gotcha.

Anyway. Google the words evasive, duplicitous and condescending. It’ll take you right to the testimony of the two Google executives.

Do it soon, however.

You never know when Google is going to bar your access to news, Canada.

My latest: Judge Justin

You can’t judge yourself.

More specifically, you’re not allowed to decide – or control, or influence – a case in which you are one of the main players. In law, that’s as basic as it gets.

The Bible says we can and should judge ourselves, yes. It’s in 2 Corinthians 13:5, where it goes on about “testing yourself” and “examining yourself.”

But that’s not the law. The law is quite clear: no one is permitted to stand in judgment of themselves.

In law, it is a principle that has been around for centuries. There’s even a Latin phrase for it: “Nemo iudex in causa sua.” That essentially means “no one should be a judge in their own cause”.

It’s an ancient principle of what is called natural law – the unchanging moral principles that serve as the basis governing all human conduct. Natural laws are considered so fundamental they cannot ever be debated.

In Canada, the notion that no one should have the power to judge themselves is seen in section 21 of the Conflict of Interest Act. That law reads: “A public office holder shall recuse himself or herself from any discussion, decision, debate or vote on any matter in respect of which he or she would be in a conflict of interest.”

The “public office holder,” here, is one Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada. The “discussion or debate,” here, is the interference of China in Canada’s federal elections in 2019 and 2021.

The interference isn’t an allegation: there’s been a veritable avalanche of detailed disclosure by intelligence agencies, foreign and/or domestic, characterizing Chinese election interference as a fact, not a claim. The media, too, are now reporting Chinese wrongdoing as fact – and not prefaced by the usual hedges, like “allegedly” or “reportedly.”

For months, the fact of Chinese election criminality has been adamantly denied by Trudeau and his Liberal Party. As recently as last week, he was refusing to do anything about it.

This week, Trudeau did a reversal that was so complete, so colossal, it is frankly amazing that he didn’t suffer actual whiplash. But you knew that he finally knew he could ignore the crisis no longer.

So, he stood before the media for almost an hour – a gaggle of ministers arrayed behind him, nodding their craniums like bobbleheads in a pickup truck window careening along a country road – and pretended to answer questions in that cloying, counterfeit manner he uses whenever he’s caught. All dewy-eyed and inflection.

Except he didn’t answer the key question, however many times he was asked it. Namely, how can he decide who will investigate China’s malfeasance – and what their terms of reference are, and when they will report – when he, him, is the prime beneficiary of the interference?

Because we all know that China interfered in our elections, in our democracy, for one purpose and one purpose alone: to defeat the Conservative Party, who they saw as inimical to their interests. And to elect the aforementioned Justin Trudeau, who they rightly saw as the Western leader most likely to act as supplicant to China.

In the United States, when Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump was not the one who decided whether the interference would be investigated or not. If he alone had had that power, no investigation would have taken place. Trump was quite clear on that.

So the decision was made by an official within the Department of Justice. A public office holder whose fate did not rest on the outcome.

Justin Trudeau’s political fate now rests on the outcome of the Chinese election interference story. That, too, is a fact: he would have continued to stonewall and prevaricate if the metastasizing scandal wasn’t taking a serious toll. He done it before.

Which leads us back to the key question, the one with which we started: how can Justin Trudeau stand in judgment of himself? How? Because, ultimately, that’s what he’s doing. He alone determines the parameters for the investigation of a scandal in which he, personally, was the beneficiary.

That is not just unethical, it is against natural law. And the only way to deal with this abomination, now, is this:

Have a real election, free and fair, and vote the abomination out.

[Kinsella is a lawyer who taught at the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Law.]