THE BLOG

Internet Freedom: How Canadians Are Kept in the Dark

06/27/2013 12:34 EDT | Updated 08/27/2013 05:12 EDT

Following weeks of sustained pressure from the international Our Fair Deal Coalition and others, we have some good news to report from south of the border. U.S. Congressional Representatives have finally been given limited access to the drafts of the secretive and extreme Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. It looks like other U.S. Members of Congress will be provided with similar access.

This is a small step forward for transparency in the TPP talks which, until now, have been taking place behind closed doors in an atmosphere of near-total secrecy. To date, only giant conglomerates have been given privileged access to the TPP's secretive process, with citizens being shut out almost entirely.

Allowing members of Congress to see some of the TPP text is a step in the right direction, but Internet users, web businesses, and citizens in general must also be given access to both the texts and the process. We shouldn't have to rely on old leaked texts we've obtained and we shouldn't need to force citizen voices into the process. The TPP is secretive, extreme, and we deserve to know how it will censor our free expression online.

Rep. Grayson, the first Member of Congress to read the secretive TPP text, is sounding the alarm, saying the TPP represents "a punch in the face to the middle class" - you can read more about his reaction on his website.

Here at OpenMedia.ca, we've already been hearing from Canadians outraged that our own Members of Parliament are still being denied access to the TPP text - access that has now been granted to their counterparts in Washington D.C.

We know that Canadians will not accept their Members of Parliament being kept in the dark while their U.S. counterparts are able to study the TPP text. This imbalance will inevitably lead to a terrible deal for Canada and for all the TPP countries that care about Internet freedom. Canadian MPs deserve to read the full text so they can participate in Parliamentary debate and represent their constituents effectively.

I wrote to Trade Minister Ed Fast several weeks ago, to ask for a meeting to discuss the serious concerns Canadians have about how the TPP would stifle our digital economy. I have yet to receive a response from the Minister, who seems to prefer keeping a tight group of industry lobbyists in the loop while shutting out citizens, small businesses and MPs from the process entirely. Canadians deserve better from a government which came into office promising greater transparency and accountability.

Allowing MPs to scrutinize the deal is just a start. The full text of the TPP must now be immediately released to the public, so that citizens can see for themselves how this secretive deal affects them.

Canadians can demand transparency and an end to TPP copyright proposals that threaten free speech online by joining the over 15,000 citizens speaking out at OurFairDeal.org.