Choosing National Security Agency whistleblower and U.S. fugitive Edward Snowden to speak at his school via video conference is creating fierce debate on campus, says the Toronto-area student who arranged it.
And Conor Healy says that's one of the reasons he pursued Snowden as a speaker at the World Affairs Conference, which is co-organized by Upper Canada College.
Snowden is the former National Security Agency contractor currently living in exile in Russia after illegally releasing documents that exposed widespread spying by the U.S. government.
He will appear at the conference via video link as the keynote speaker at 7 p.m. ET. You can watch the livestream here.
"Our goal is to expose the student delegates to issues that are globally significant to them," Healy said Monday in an interview on CBC Radio's Metro Morning. "Snowden is undoubtedly one of the foremost perspectives on one side of an essential debate about our relationship with the government as it relates to personal privacy," he said.
A controversial figure
Snowden remains a controversial figure. The documents he leaked in 2013 revealed the U.S. government has programs in place to spy on almost everything that hundreds of millions of people do online, including emails, social networking posts, online chat histories, phone calls and texts.
Some have praised Snowden for exposing the breadth of government spying. Others feel his actions are treasonous.
Healy said Snowden's actions have spurred debate in his own household.
"My dad thinks that he committed a crime and that's that," Healy said.
In a post on the UCC website, a person who describes himself as "a current parent, Old Boy and strong supporter of UCC" decried the choice of speaker at the conference.
"I certainly support bringing provocative, controversial speakers to engage in debate with the students. However, I draw the line at criminals," the poster wrote.
Snowden will only be taking questions from students after his speech.
The topic of his moderated discussion is “Privacy vs. Security: A Discussion of Personal Privacy in the Digital Age.”
Healy said he's keen to ask Snowden "what steps Canada needs to take, in his opinion, to ensure that our privacy is being treated fairly by the government."