Human rights and inclusion in online and digital contexts
The rights and freedoms that individuals have offline must also be protected online. Canada is committed to working with international partners to protect Internet freedom, including the rights to online freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, as well as to protect privacy online.
What is Canada doing for human rights online?
Canada actively raises concerns about threats to human rights online in bilateral and multilateral forums. These forums include the UN General Assembly, the UN Human Rights Council, the G7, the Freedom Online Coalition (FOC) and other international organizations.
Canada is a founding member of the FOC, a group comprising 33 countries that collaborate to support Internet freedom and advance human rights online.
- coordinate diplomatic efforts
- share information on violations of human rights online
- work together to voice concern over measures that curtail human rights online
Canada supports this effort by:
- issuing joint statements
- sharing policy approaches to complex issues
- exchanging views on strategy for participating in relevant forums
- providing a platform for multi-stakeholder engagement
As a Freedom Online Coalition member, Canada spearheaded the first UN Human Rights Council resolution on this issue. Canada has also led several coalition statements, including a 2020 statement on artificial intelligence (AI) and human rights and a 2019 statement on defending civic space online. Canada continuously engages civil society and the private sector in a constructive dialogue on pressing issues related to Internet freedom.
Moreover, Canada works with multiple stakeholders to advocate for the continued relevance of existing international frameworks, including international human rights law, in the global governance of emerging technologies, such as AI. Canada actively participates in the Council of Europe's Ad Hoc Committee on AI, which aims to produce the first binding international treaty on AI. Canada also helped shape the final draft of the non-binding UNESCO Recommendation on the Ethics of AI, which is expected to be adopted by the General Conference in November 2021.
How is Canada promoting digital inclusion?
Democracy in a digital age begins with promoting digital inclusion so an informed and engaged citizenry can participate meaningfully in society both online and offline. This requires connectivity and digital literacy, as well as guarantees of civic participation and safety online. The Government of Canada is championing digital inclusion at home and globally. The country plays a leadership role in the Freedom Online Coalition, the UN Secretary General's round table on digital inclusion and the G7 Rapid Response Mechanism, which identifies and responds to foreign threats to democracy, including online disinformation. Canada undertakes initiatives to promote civic participation and safety online, such as producing the Playbook for Gender Equality in the Digital Age and the Guidelines on Supporting Human Rights Defenders. Canada also supports digital inclusion-related programming worldwide.
- March 2, 2022: Statement on behalf of the Chair of the Freedom Online Coalition: A call to action on state-sponsored disinformation in Ukraine
- July 7, 2021: Human Rights Council resolution on the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet
- September 17, 2020: Joint statement on Internet shutdown in Belarus
- November 5, 2020: FOC Joint Statement on Artificial Intelligence and Human Rights
- May 27, 2020: FOC Joint Statement on COVID-19 and Internet Freedom
- Freedom Online Coalition
- Playbook for gender equality in the digital age
- Voices at risk: Canada's guidelines on supporting human rights defenders
- The UN Secretary-General's road map on digital cooperation
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