The Canadian government has released its response to the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics report on net neutrality. The report featured a strong endorsement of net neutrality and raised concerns with Bell’s site blocking proposal. The government response emphasizes its support for net neutrality, highlighting the current legal framework. While the response does not directly address the site blocking proposal (noting it would inappropriate to comment on a case currently before the CRTC), it reiterates that it has the power to vary, rescind, or refer a CRTC decision back for reconsideration, perhaps a signal that a CRTC decision favouring site blocking could face a government response to rescind or review.
The most interesting aspect of the response involves the international considerations, particularly the U.S. reversal of its support for net neutrality. The government acknowledges the concerns with how U.S. policy could affect Canadians and promises to take action, including pursuing outcomes in the NAFTA renegotiation:
The Government of Canada is mindful of the concerns of Canadian enterprises and citizens over the recent changes in the United States (US) to its net neutrality regime and will seek to address with the US any situation whereby a Canadian enterprise is negatively affected by the traffic management practices of a US ISP. In the event that US ISPs engage in traffic management practices that harm Canadian interests, the Government will proactively seek to address these concerns to ensure that the US is meeting its commitments under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), including through the established NAFTA committees and co-operation provisions, and will engage with its international trade partners to promote an open Internet based on international best practices. Furthermore, the Government of Canada will pursue outcomes in the renegotiation of NAFTA that continue to provide for reasonable and non-discriminatory access for Canadian businesses to US telecommunications networks and services, including those of an ISP, and recognize the importance for consumers being able to access and use services and applications of their choice on the Internet.
While Canada presumably has bigger NAFTA concerns at the moment, the firm commitment to net neutrality, including within trade negotiations, sends a strong signal that the net neutrality has emerged as a foundational principle of Canadian digital policy.