Byron Holland is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA). View bio
Earlier this week, Canadian Justice Minister Rob Nicholson announced the federal government will not proceed with Bill C-30. This bill, also known as the Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act, would have required Internet service providers to provide law enforcement agencies with access to their customers’ online communications without a warrant.
To say this bill was divisive is an understatement. When I first blogged about C-30 about a year ago, sparks were flying. Numerous civil liberties and rights groups were vocally opposed to the proposed legislation. Even Canada’s Privacy Commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart, weighed in on the debate, calling on the government to amend the bill to respect Canadians’ privacy rights. Opposition to the bill resulted in it being sent back to committee to be amended, and until yesterday, its future was uncertain.
I was pleased with the Minister’s reasoning for killing C-30. Nicolson cited public opposition to the bill as the reason the government will not proceed with it: “We have listened to the concerns of Canadians who have been very clear on this.”
Last week I blogged about the rising power of the end user in shaping and influencing the development of the Internet. In that post, I said “The people who use the Internet – and there is about 2 billion of them – have a voice.” The death of bill C-30 is just another example of how powerful their voice can be.
As an aside, I’m sure Bill C-30 will be discussed at the Canadian Internet Forum (CIF) in a couple of weeks. The CIF is the place for Canadians to share their thoughts on the development, deployment and governance of the Internet in Canada. In fact, Jennifer Stoddart is this year’s keynote speaker. If you are interested in issues like bill C-30, I encourage you to join us at the CIF on February 28. The event is free, and if you are unable to attend in-person in Ottawa, it will be webcast.
On February 28, CIRA will host an important forum on the future of the Internet in Canada. This is our third CIF, and I’m comfortable in saying it is going to be bigger and better than ever.
Of course, that may have more to do with timing, than our planning skills (but I would say we definitely have a role in it!). The fact is, for an Internet governance geek like me, 2012 was nothing short of incredible:
- The year started off with the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the United States, legislation that if passed, could have negatively affected the global Internet. A global public backlash resulted in the Bill getting dropped.
- In Canada, the Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act, or Bill C-30, drew a lot of attention to legislation and the Internet. Again, the Bill was sent back for revising after intense public pressure.
- ICANN, the organization at the heart of the Internet governance ecosystem, appointed a new CEO, Fadi Chehadé. His vision is to bring all stakeholders to the table for meaningful discussion to ensure that all global citizens can share an open Internet.
- And, in December the World Conference on Information Technology (WCIT-12) and the potential to have the Internet put under the control of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) brought international Internet governance into the mainstream. In part due to international pressure, the majority of democratic nations refused to sign onto the agreement by the end of the conference.
- Let’s also not forget that 2012 was the year the Internet governance world came to Canada. In September we successfully hosted ICANN 45, one of the largest ICANN meetings in history, in Toronto. It was one of the best attended ICANN meetings to date, with incredible participation by Canadians.
These events are both emblematic of the nature of the Internet. With apologies to our friends south of the border, the Internet really for the people and by the people. It is a true bottom up, organic entity. The people who use the Internet – and there is more than a billion of them – have a voice.
These events are also an indication of what’s to come. The days of the decisions about the Internet getting made in closed or isolated rooms without public knowledge or participation are clearly over. The five events above all show the broader Internet community is ready to use its voice to influence the development of the Internet.
And, that’s exactly why we created the CIF. It is the forum for Canadians to discuss and debate the hot topics that help shape the Canadian Internet landscape, be it Internet security, policy, digital literacy, or any other topic. We bring together domestic and international Internet experts to discuss and debate the topics that help shape the Canadian Internet landscape, and engage you, the Canadian Internet user, in that debate.
This year, I am pleased to announce that the CIF will feature a keynote from Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart about privacy on the Internet landscape in Canada. We have also lined up some of the brightest minds in the Internet ecosystem in Canada for a couple of lively panel discussions.
A panel session on policy and governance will feature Steve Anderson from Openmedia.ca, Karen Mulberry from the Internet Society and Tim Denton from the CRTC. Journalist Shane Schick will join Matthew Johnson from MediaSmarts in a discussion about digital literacy. In the afternoon, Bill Woodcock from Packet Clearing House will present on the current issues in Internet security. And, we are planning an interesting interactive activity on cyber-security.
At the CIF, there is no ‘audience’. Just as we are all participants in the Internet sphere, we are all participants at the CIF. Everyone who attends has equal voice. The amount of time we allocate to discussion among the event participants has become a hallmark of the CIF, a fact I am particularly proud of.
Please, join us at the Canadian Internet Forum on February 28. If you are in Ottawa, you can join us in person by registering here. If you aren’t in Ottawa, you can still participate via webcast. Details for the webcast can be found here.