Canada is known as a country where the rights of people are respected best among all the countries in the world. The peace-loving and welcoming image of Canada has been established because the great emphasis is laid on people’s rights and their freedom in the country.
When it comes to the internet, Canada is quite liberal there as well. On the whole, the internet is quite free to use and web content of any kind easily accessible in the country.
Internet Availability in Canada
Canada had 32.4 million internet users according to a test conducted in 2014. This roughly translates to 93% of the population having access to the web. CIRA’s 2013 Facebook reported that Canadians make the most of this high availability of the internet, with Canadians using the internet more than anyone in the world.
The reported usage of internet by Canadians was roughly 45 hours a month. The Internet is available through all the different forms, with Fibre-To-The-Home being introduced around 2010 by Bell Aliant. But despite the high availability of internet in Canada, the country has some of the lowest standards among the 34 OECD countries due to the high costs as well as slow internet speed.
Internet Censorship in Canada
On the whole, the internet is quite free to access as people like to in Canada. There are no severe restrictions as to what websites are available to the public for viewing or what information they can and cannot access on the internet. The only provision for blocking websites in Canada is for the purpose of blocking websites that host child pornography.
There is a clear method for that as well, with internet users reporting such websites to the authorities. These reports are then investigated by Cybertip.ca, an independent organization, and if found correct, the website is blocked.
However, availability of web content for free, for the most part, does not mean that the country does not have any problems when it comes to the internet. There have been a few legislations and incidents which go to show that there are some restrictions in Canada as well as to people’s freedom to use the internet as they like. The web of censorship is also drawing itself out at a quick place over the Canadian residents. Here are some of the issues:
- PEN Canada Audit
PEN Canada is a charity that promotes freedom of expression in Canada and is represented by over 1,000 writers and supporters in Canada. Over the past few years, PEN Canada has been quite critical of the Harper government for its suppressing of government scientists to speak freely about their research with media agencies and the public alike. It has also voiced its concern over how the government has been collaborating with countries like the USA to spy on the citizens.
Although the auditing of such companies was authorized by a 2012 Bill and the Canada Revenue Agency claims that the selection of which organization to audit is made independent of any governmental influence, many have claimed that some of the audits are made to strip the organizations off their funding. Such publicity is bad for any organization and the cost incurred for the legal activities can take a toll on the concerned organization. Many companies have been audited under similar circumstances, leading people to express concern that the government is trying to control what can be said about them through any form of media including the internet.
- C-28 Bill 2014
On July 1, 2014, on Canada Day, a new bill came into power in Canada. The Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation was introduced as a means to put a check on the number of spam emails that citizens receive related to the selling of a product. However, many have claimed that this is a misrepresentation. This is because this bill makes it illegal for anyone to send a message to another that has any business aspect related to it.
To throw further light on the matter, this legislation makes it illegal for an individual or business to contact another regarding a proposal or business offer without prior authorization. Even job seekers requesting a business firm are liable for a $1 million fine if they do not have prior authorization. The authorization is required to be made via phone, and proof of this authorization would be provided as the recorded conversation. Both of these are a blow for the Canadian business firms for they would lose a lot of time and money in the authorization.
Moreover, the opponents claim that it regards everyone as a violator unless the accused proves his innocence. This ideology has been widely criticized for it is an approach one does not associate with Canada.
- Trans-Pacific Partnership 2015
The TPP is a pact signed between 12 countries of the world to facilitate free trade between the member nations by removing trade tariffs. However, many claim that it will only be beneficial for the big corporations as well as result in lesser job opportunities for natives. For one, Copyrights will be extended to 20 years, meaning people would lose a lot more money, and the public domain will be robbed. Also, there are vague laws in the document that are related to internet surveillance and censorship of web content in member countries.
Protecting your Privacy and Anonymity
Internet censorship and surveillance have become a part of all governments today. It would be foolish to think otherwise in today’s time. Therefore, the onus to ensure your safety, privacy and anonymity while browsing the internet is on you. This can be achieved using technology like Virtual Private Networks. Although primarily used for allowing remote workers to access a business network in a secure manner, VPNs can be used by everyone. When you connect to a VPN, your ISP, and any government tracker can only see that you are connected to a VPN.
Also, VPNs mask your true IP address with that of their server, meaning that your identity remains hidden. Thus, using a VPN means no one knows who you are or what you are doing on the internet. The ability to connect to a server outside your region also means you can access content not available in your area. However, care must be their when choosing a VPN, for although they prevent anyone else from seeing what you are doing, they can see it all. You should always choose a VPN that does not record activity logs.
In this article, we saw that although what the public can and cannot access on the internet is not control by the Canadian government as such, there are laws which prevent the public from using it as freely as they like. Then there is the oh-so-common issue of mass surveillance of the public through the internet. So although the internet is easily available and free to use, there are some gray areas when it comes to the internet in Canada.