Canadian Online Freedom A Tenuous Situation?

Published Sunday, July 10, 2011 -

Is Canada on the verge of being another nation that censors the internet and makes life difficult for anyone other than those that tread the moral high ground. Canada is definitely a country that thinks it actually has rights and freedoms entrenched in the Canadian charter of Rights and Freedoms but most Canadians don’t know how fragile those rights can be. The USA has incredible influence over Canadian lives in so many ways after all America is Canada’s biggest trading partner and they share the world’s longest undefended border. As we all know though the internet is supposed to be borderless and free.

When America enacted the new Homeland Security Act the cyber situation also changed dramatically. Canadian government officials are actually celebrating the efforts of Netsweeper Inc., a Guelph Ontario based developer of content filtering software, who presented the United Arab Emirates telecom giant Du with an award for its use of green technology recently.  Attendees at the function included a trade commissioner from the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, as well as representatives from the National Research Council and the Ontario Centres of Excellence, a provincial agency funded by the Ministry of Research and Innovation.

Du uses Netsweeper software to block content from United Arab Emirates Internet users, including political, religious and human rights material, according to the Open Net Initiative which is a collective of researchers that track Internet censorship and surveillance. Controversial political moves that condone the idea of censorship in other regimes does not sit well with watch dogs and analysts who see this as a slippery slope to oppression.
Ron Deibert, director of the Citizen Lab, an Open Net partner at the University of Toronto, pointed out that the relationship between the Canadian government and private firm Netsweeper demonstrates “typical short-sighted encouragement of local technology” without “broader consideration of the implications.”
He said Canada needs to establish a clear foreign policy on access to information and freedom of speech in cyberspace. “There is a growing recognition among liberal democratic countries and certainly in civil society that filtering access to information should be the exception, not the rule,” Deibert concluded. 


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