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We know you want a better internet: Here’s how CIRA helps

By Maureen James
Manager, Community Investment Program

From the uproar over Bill C-10, to abandoned privacy reform, to consultations on website blocking, there has never been more happening on digital policy in Canada. And we know that internet users and CIRA members have many questions and concerns about how the government plans to regulate the internet.   

At CIRA, we believe that everyone’s voice matters in designing policy for the web. That’s why CIRA’s Community Investment Program invests in projects to engage, support and strengthen a vibrant and resilient internet community in Canada.   

You may already be familiar with some of our Community Investment Program initiatives, like our granting program or CIRA Canadian Shield. But we wanted to take a moment to share some of our recent efforts to convene Canada’s internet policy community, and how they help build a trusted internet for Canadians.  

Earlier this year we surveyed Canadians to understand their priorities for the future of Canada’s internet. We wrote up the findings in our annual Canadians Deserve a Better Internet report, which found—amongst many things—that a majority of Canadians are concerned about harmful content online, and want to give the Privacy Commissioner new powers to help safeguard their private information.  

Our original research provides the public with independent data they can use to, for example, advocate on digital policy issues with their Members of Parliament, advance public discussion, or gain a better understanding of the technologies, platforms, and policies that shape Canada’s internet.  

Surveying Canadians and publishing the results is a great way to provide a pulse check on where folks stand. But, to really help Canadians see how the internet works, these efforts need to be paired with education and dialogue.  

That’s why on July 6th, CIRA sponsored the first event in a new Canadian Internet Governance Forum (IGF) speaker series called Canadian IGF Talks. For those who are unfamiliar, the Canadian IGF is widely recognized as Canada’s leading multi-stakeholder forum for internet and digital policy issues.  

This year’s kick-off forum, titled, Does the Government of Canada Still Support the Open Internet? brought together four passionate thought leaders with diverse viewpoints, including Daniel Bernhard of FRIENDS of Canadian Broadcasting, Michael Geist of the University of Ottawa, Laura Tribe of OpenMedia, and Janet Yale, Chair of the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislative Review, to debate the Government of Canada’s digital policy agenda.  

The 90-minute conversation covered a wide range of issues, including net neutrality, online expression and competition. The forum also delved into the future of journalism and Canadian content in an online world increasingly dominated by a small handful of powerful, global technology companies. You can find a full recap of the discussion including a link to the recorded video here.  

Read more: Key takeaways from the first Canadian IGF Talks session    

While the Canadian IGF provides an important forum for Canadians who participate and attend domestically, it also benefits the global internet governance community. You see, the Canadian IGF is what’s known as a National and Regional Initiative (NRI) of the global United Nations IGF. All NRI findings are ultimately reported back into the global IGF community to facilitate a bottom-up, representative policy process.  

As Canada’s top-level domain operator of .CA, CIRA has a lot of experience representing Canada internationally at global internet governance forums, including the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and the global IGF. 

With events like our Canadian IGF Talks series, alongside our research, we work to elevate Canadians’ concerns on internet governance issues to the global stage. By collaborating with our fellow Canadian IGF organizing committee members, we record the key takeaways and findings from our events and share them with the global IGF community. To give you a sense of what this looks like, you can take a look at the final report developed from last year’s Canadian IGF.  

At a time when lawmakers are debating new rules for the (digital) road, CIRA is proud to play a key role in providing meaningful contributions to the public debate and strengthening Canadians’ participation in our vibrant internet community. To learn more about upcoming IGF events, be sure to follow the Canadian IGF on Twitter and Facebook, and like and subscribe to the forum on Youtube.

About the author
Maureen James

Maureen James manages CIRA’s Community Investment Program. Her background is in fundraising, grantmaking and strategy development with non-profits internationally and here in Canada.