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Online censorship, imposed by both the private sector and by governments, has become a significant issue.


What specific action(s) would you, as an individual director, take to stop such Internet censorship?


What specific action(s) should CIRA, as an organisation, take to stop such Internet censorship?


Thank you in advance for your answers.

I agree with CIRA’s submission to the CRTC regarding FairPlay. The internet should remain open except for illegal activity such as child pornography and infrastructure abuse. I would endorse any submissions or publicly stated opinions from CIRA supporting this stance. -Liza Aboud

Hi folks - Thanks for the question, SG - Ryan Black here: nomination committee candidate and current Board member and Chair, Governance, at CIRA. 

CIRA is uniquely positioned to be a strong, independent voice against Internet censorship.  As a non-governmental non-profit that believes in empowering a better Internet for all Canadians, we are fortunate to have a strong communications presence, leadership team and culture that fosters and thought leadership is nuanced and clear about CIRA's support for a free and open Internet.

Whether it's weakening encryption, encouraging greater access to Canada's underserved populations, combatting fake news, opposing misguided initiatives like FairPlay or supporting privacy and preventing censorship, CIRA has been out front with its progressive leadership in this area.  CIRA's board has fully supported the organization in these efforts, as well as the diversification of the organization to include important initiatives that support them.  As a board member for the past 3 years, I've seen it in action and it's amazing.  However, we need to be careful: it is not a director's job to take specific action to prevent Internet censorship, it is a director's job to oversee the management of the organization and foster the type of dynamic, forward-thinking and adaptive environment that will allow senior management and staff to feel empowered to lead Canada's way through these issues.  And I'm very confident that we have done that, both with forward-thinking strategy, as well as supporting initiatives like the Community Investment Program and the Canadian Internet Governance Forum.

You can read more about CIRA's thought leadership in these areas here:  (Honestly ,really great stuff!)


Thank you for this question.   In terms of Board operations, I do not expect to take any actions as an individual director to stop Internet censorship.  As far as the overall organization is concerned, CIRA's management team has maintained a keen eye on this.   This paragraph from the web site really resonated with me.   

"Canadians now feel that it’s time for the government and global internet governance stakeholders to act and provide new safeguards for internet users. The point of any policy or regulation should be to provide an equalizing force – to ensure individual rights aren’t eclipsed by entrenched interests, that modern convenience doesn’t come with a price tag of forfeiting privacy, and that facts aren’t clouded out by fiction. Working together, we can strike the right balance that provides the regulation Canadians need for the internet to be a part of this country’s future health and prosperity."

As a potential Board member, I would continue to support CIRA management's approach.

what some may not realize is that CIRA derives 90% or so of its revenue from operating the ".ca" domain, that must be done for Canadians and that it is a public resource.  Does that make it a core business?

Ryan Black cites a blog post as evidence of thought leadership on the internet.  Many write blog posts - and I do so on board governance, for example - but that does not constitute a corporate mandate.

The question Ryan should answer, as Chair of the Governance Committee, does CIRA have a mandate to change government regulation, policy, or legislation?  And if so, who is responsible and accountable to do that change?   Is CIRA's mandate to affect change or limit it to discussion and thought leadership?  


Ryan Black here, yes I am currently a Board Member and Chair, Governance, but my term is expiring and so I am speaking only as nomination committee candidate as is the only appropriate thing for me to do in the campaign forum.  I am not going to answer any questions in here as Chair, Governance, but as the person with experience as Chair, Governance.

I felt like the discussion was going a different place than you're trying to take it, Alex, but I'm not surprised that you're doing your own thing, presumably for your own purposes. Your first paragraph has no direct bearing on the question, so we're off to a great start and we're left to try to interpret what you mean. Your second paragraph is a nonsense premise that evidence of something is not evidence of something for reasons that elude me, and then non-sequitur into a discussion about mandate. Your third paragraph unnecessarily calls me out to answer seemingly "big" questions that actually have an easy answer, which I'm sure fools some people into thinking the questions are smart. All that it's really missing for a prototypical Alex comment is an unnecessary recitation of your qualifications, and I'm quite disappointed I only had to go back ONE post from you to find it.

CIRA's mandate is clearly set out in its Amended Articles of Incorporation: (a) to act as the registry for the .CA Internet domain; (b) to provide professional registry, Domain Name System (DNS), and related services; (c) to develop, carry out and/or support Internet-related activities that promote the good governance, development and use of the Internet for Canada; and (d) to do all such other things as are incidental or conducive to the attainment of the above purposes. 

Going back to the topic at hand, I am proud of my record and am proud of CIRA in its advocacy and community interest role. CIRA has limited power, resources or ability to "affect change" (sic) on government regulation, policy or legislation, but I am very heartened by the thought leadership spoken by MANY voices and through many channels: yes, including the "blog" as you put it.  Don't diminish it, these voices are important Your statement ignores the one just above yours, where Jennifer pointed out that comments and thoughts on the website really resonated to her. They bear weight and form part of an overall strategy that is well-executed in my view.

I know you're also aware of, for example, the inaugural Canadian Internet Governance Forum, which represented an unprecedented level of collaboration between CIRA, ISED, CANARIE, ISOC, Youth IGF Canada, the U of Ottawa and other important groups, and bringing together thought leadership on so many different areas of interest including internet censorship. I know you're aware of the participation on government standing committees, international and national internet governance, work to support communities through the Community Investment Program, and so much more. I know that you know that CIRA voices are often called upon to comment on the most important matters addressing the Canadian internet.

I'm not going to answer your questions, Alex.

As a member, I appreciate CIRA's voice for privacy and against censorship on the internet and consider it appropriate.

Unfortunately, on the other hand, products such as the DNS Firewall create an infrastructure that enables censorship. While it's intended to protect users, it can theoretically block access to resolution for specific sites or services. Considering the looming ban of Tik Tok in the US, this is undoubtedly an up-to-date topic that I would love to see the candidates discuss.

As a member candidate, I maintain that there needs to be a balance between upholding the law and protecting Canadians while allowing for a free and open internet. CIRA’s submission to the CRTC regarding FairPlay and its involvement in the multi-stakeholder Canadian Internet Governance Forum substantiate its views against censorship while acknowledging the need for threat protection in an increasingly hostile environment. While you point out that DNS Firewall can “theoretically” block access, in practical terms to abandon it would be akin to throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Unintended consequences can and should be mitigated while providing Canadians with important infrastructure protection.


Hi, Frank.  I posted this response to another thread, but it may more appropriately be here. 

I have to admit this is the first I'm thinking of DNS Firewall as being anything but a benefit to Canadian internet users.  I do believe that, on balance, cybersecurity tools like the DNS Firewall do more good than harm, though Frank I would be interested to know (as a Nom Com candidate who is currently Chair, Governance, at CIRA) whether you think there are any proactive policies or "tripwires" that CIRA should put into place that would prevent the DNS Firewall from being used to enable censorship.

Ryan, thank you for asking for my opinion.
The critical question here is who creates the protective filter list and who is protected from what. How and by whom are the decisions made. CIRA allows a more fine-grained tuning for commercial clients of their solution, but again - who decides if the content is malicious etc. The crucial part of the message here would be how the lists are obtained and maintained.
Whether you use the misnomer "firewall" to name a reverse DNS lookup filter, or if you call it a host blocklist, it is a significant entry point to allow censorship. In my yes, this service also seems quite far from CIRA's mandate.
The DNS "firewall" is far from an actual firewall. It prevents the resolution of names. It does not protect computers and users from connecting to servers or servers connecting to a company's network.
What if the next time a province tries to block Casino websites, they try to get CIRA to add this to their list of unresolvable sites through their DNS? What if it's not Casino sites, but maybe sites that aren't available in French, or sites with content that someone doesn't like?

Mr Black, I had thought my question to you, Chair of Governance, was simple, “does CIRA have a mandate to change government regulation, policy, or legislation (regarding the internet)”.  As a member I think the question of mandate is crucially important.

Having spent several paragraphs, going off topic about my qualifications, showing animus, you then state that you will not answer my question.  A lawyer once told me: “when the law is on your side pound the table, when the law is against you pound the opponent”.

Alex, you'll note that I did answer THAT question, Alex: CIRA's mandate is well known and published in its bylaws.  CIRA's mandate is to help foster a better Internet for all Canadians, and has limited resources to "change government regulation, policy or legislation".  I believe it deploys those resources wisely through amazing investments through CIP, good thought leadership, hosting Internet Governance forums.  I couldn't have been clearer in my answer, though perhaps I was also as clear in my disdain for your particular style of vaguely accusatorial gish-gallop.


This question is very important and complex.  I believe CIRA is doing a lot in providing services and awareness. It is my understanding that CIRA do not have great influence on the regulatory and political decisions regarding the sensitive issue.  Cira  can advocate and foster different ideas and approaches but no authoritative power per se. The Internet has changed in very numerous and significantly ways, especially since the Snowden scandal.  I personnally believe that it is time that we study and take a research based approch on strinking the balance to very sensitive issues nationally and internationally.  I would support the idea that CIRA take a leadership role  on this issue and participate nationally and internationally on establishing the role of regulation to protect the Internet and its users against threats and fake news.  An open and free intenet needs a secured and safe ecosystems from the infrastructure to the users. 

Michele Rioux

I believe the question of censorship is important to all CIRA members. Let’s take a look at a few examples involving censorship over the last year ...

Terrorists use the Internet to cause death and destruction in real life. The recent event involving the Canadian registrar Tucows doesn’t involve a .ca domain, but there’s no reason to believe that a .ca domain won’t be used in this way in the future. Canadian security institutions need to be given policy direction on how to quickly intervene in these cases. CIRA can help registrars and law enforcement agencies find the right policy solutions to protect Canadians from harm.

Global News: Toronto-registered websites of al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban

Copyright Enforcement
Last year a coalition of Canadian telecommunications companies and ISPs filed a complaint in a federal court over a copyright dispute. I agree with Michael Geist’s statement …

"At a minimum, site blocking ought to be a measure of last resort, and it wasn't in this case. Before you can even entertain the possibility of taking what is really the most extreme step in terms of literally trying to block content, you need to have taken every step you can short of that, and that's not what happened here."

CBC: Federal Court issues first ever order to block piracy website

Pandemic Misinformation & CIRA Canadian Shield
The Canadian Shield is a great example of the need to block harmful content for the Canadian good, but at the same time, retain the ability to audit the results to make sure valid sites are not blocked and any data collected is properly anonymized. Balance and transparency are required. 

CBC: CIRA Canadian Shield

General Policy Direction:

I think the answer to finding the right balance, when considering the question of censorship, will come from looking at the perspective of human connectedness, rather than technology. It’s clear, in 2020, that not everything on the Internet is good. Freedom of speech is a fundamental right, but not an absolute right. We need solutions that don’t just focus on technology. We need human oriented policy solutions that block harm without stifling free speech. 

The Internet Architecture Board’s recent RFC, “RFC8890: The Internet is for End Users” may be useful to CIRA. Principles, found in this RFC, can help guide CIRA to find human based solutions for challenging questions like censorship. 

RFC8890: The Internet is for End Users 

Matthew Nottingham’s blog on RFC8890


As a board director, I would support the following actions: 

1) Continue to support Public Debate: I would direct CIRA resources to support a public debate on the relationship between censorship, privacy, surveillance & security with blog posts and social media posts. I would also request CIRA staff suggest “Censorship” to be included as an agenda item at the annual Canadian Internet Governance Forum (Canadian IGF). 

2) More Membership Engagement: It’s unrealistic for the CIRA board, or any single board member for that matter, to take a position that they alone can answer complex questions like censorship. It’s necessary to include members in the conversation and engage with them on these complex issues beyond the once a year Campaign Forum. The campaign forum is useful, but disappears after the election. Not having these campaign forum discussions available in a publicly accessible archive on the CIRA website is a missed opportunity. 


As an individual member of society, I am for a free and open internet model.  That does not necessarily mean a restriction of access to content.  For example, a school would not allow students to access censored content.

From a CIRA perspective, I believe that CIRA should be an organization that promotes a free and open internet model.

But from a Board perspective you have to delineate the separation between management and the board.  Management is responsible for the day to day activities of CIRA.  The Board is accountable to provide governance to ensure the agreed-upon strategies are implemented.  This is a separation of powers that is crucial in any board/management relationship.  I have been on both sides of the issue when board members wanted to actively manage the company, and that does not work.