CIRA And The Disappearing Public Interest Mandate

Rick Anderson, a long-time CIRA director, appears this week on TVO's Search Engine to respond to recent criticisms of the dot-ca domain authority.  Host Jesse Brown asked Anderson to address my recent column focused on CIRA's disappointing performance in the realm of its social mandate.  Anderson responded:

"Doing things beyond operating the registry is actually not formally part of the mandate that was given to us by the Government of Canada ten years ago.  We actually did get a mandate letter from Industry Canada when CIRA was set up delegating the dot-ca domain name to CIRA for the benefit of Canadians."

While it is true that the Government identified the dot-ca as a key public resource and that CIRA was tasked with administering it on behalf of Canadian users, in 2006, CIRA – with the support of the government – amended its corporate documentation to expand its mandate.  The Supplementary Letters Patent added to the objects of the Corporation "to develop, carry out and/or support any other Internet-related activities in Canada."  The debate at the 2006 Annual General Meeting which passed these amendments focused specifically on the role CIRA could play in fostering Internet activities in Canada with the excess revenues it generates.  Yet years later, CIRA has not done enough to advance the potential social side of the mandate despite board resolutions that clearly set this in motion.  Instead, the organization is seemingly more interested in bidding for new top-level domains and leaving it to its directors to question whether the social contributions found in leading country-code domains around the world are even part of CIRA's mandate.  As Jacob Glick charitably notes, that is a "pretty unambitious vision of the dot-ca registry."


  1. CR Geissler says:

    CIRA’s mandate must have changed
    I just completed a survey on “Canadian Public Interest in Internet Policy and Decision Making” sent by CIRA which asks various questions that go far beyond “operating the registry”.

    The survey concludes with:

    “CIRA is undertaking this survey in conjunction with the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD). If you have any questions, concerns or problems in responding to this survey, please contact

    “IISD is providing a parallel discussion forum where respondents are invited to share their opinions regarding the questions posed in this survey, and share their opinions on the need for a mechanism in Canada to facilitate discussion on Internet policy and decision making. You can join the discussion at

    And the questions include:
    Access to the Internet: How concerned are you about access to speedy, affordable, quality broadband across Canada?

    Internet services provider (ISP) neutrality: How concerned are you about ISPs blocking or slowing Internet traffic related to specific applications or services?

    Critical Internet Resources: How concerned are you about issues such as the domain name system: domain names; Internet protocol addresses, the root servers, technical standards, etc ?

    Internet literacy: How significant a need is there for public education on issues such as Internet rights, responsibilities, and consequences of online actions?

    Privacy: Are you concerned about control over online access to personal information?

    Security: Are you concerned about the security and trustworthiness of online interactions with other users and institutions; and about the security of the Internet infrastructure itself?

    Internet abuse and misuse: Are you concerned about the prevalence of Spam, fraudulent websites (phishing), etc?

    Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) in online content: Are you concerned about how IPRs are protected for content accessible online?

    Governance of the Internet: Are you concerned about the adequacy of current institutions and processes for decision making around Internet issues, including but not limited to technical standards?

    Economic development and Canadian competitiveness: How significant a need is there for public policy that encourages innovation and growth of the Internet economy?

    Internet and other public policy issues: How significant a need is there for public policy to guide Internet innovation in health, education, employment, arts and culture, for example?

    Broadening citizen participation: Do you think that governments could make more use of Internet tools to involve the general public in decision making on matters of public policy?

    Impact of Internet use on social cohesion: Do you think that Canadians should discuss whether increased participation in online communities is supporting or detracting from individual engagement in local neighbourhoods and communities?

    Impact of Internet and related technologies on environment: How concerned are you about e-waste, CO2 emissions of large data centres, etc?

    Role of Internet and related technologies in environmental stewardship: Do you think that Internet tools should be explored for public monitoring of the environment; for example air quality, water quality, home energy use, etc?

    Name up to three Canadian organizations or institutions through which you feel you can discuss your opinions and concerns regarding Internet policy.

    Name up to three organizations or institutions outside of Canada through which you feel you can discuss your opinions and concerns regarding Internet policy.

    Who should have predominant responsibility for the evolution of the Internet in Canada?

    Would you like a Canadian mechanism to discuss Internet policy and decision making?

    What might that mechanism consist of?

    Should a Canadian forum attract Only the Internet “technical” community (applications, standards, infrastructure and service providers) or A broader community of users representing all walks of life in Canada

    Which of the following kinds of stakeholders do you think should also be encouraged to participate?

    Please share any stakeholders you feel are missing from your previous selection.

    How should the forum attract all the stakeholder groups you’ve identified?

    Should this forum share Canadian perspectives on the evolution of the Internet with other similar forums being established in other countries and with the United Nations Internet Governance Forum?

  2. I’d rather just seem them stick to the one task of running the domain.

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  4. Yvon Bourassa says:

    Where is CIRA’s public accountibility?
    Why is the CIRA CEO communicating in English only? As the head of an organization that is federally mandated to provide a public service, the CIRA CEO owes it to Canadians to publish his blog in both official languages.