Media Releases

Baird announces support for open political space online

January 6, 2015

TORONTO, ON — Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird today announced a new partnership with the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs to launch the Digital Public Square project, an up to $9-million initiative that will increase digital space for free expression and open political dialogue in places where civil society and citizen participation are under threat. By facilitating safer and accessible open space online, people living in repressive or restrictive environments can exchange their views on the decisions and institutions that affect their lives.

“Canada believes that by harnessing new digital technologies to support freedom and democracy we can help give a voice to the voiceless,” said Minister Baird. “Through the Digital Public Square project, the Munk School of Global Affairs will create open digital spaces to enable citizens to hold their governments to account in defending freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.”

The Digital Public Square project at the Munk School will rely on the tools and technologies of the global information era to open space online in restrictive or repressive environments so that citizens are empowered to articulate their interests, exchange views freely, advocate for their rights and share views on the policies that affect them. The initiative will provide citizens and civil society organizations with increased access to global information and communications networks, improved connectivity with others living in and outside their countries, and support for citizens’ monitoring and reporting on human rights violations or political repression.

“We are excited to expand the Global Dialogue’s effort to support citizens,” said Janice Stein, founding director and now professor at the Munk School. “Creating a Digital Public Square is fundamentally about enabling the largest possible number of active participants to choose the best in the marketplace of ideas.”

The project will build on the pioneering work of the Munk School’s Global Dialogue on the Future of Iran.

To view this document on the department website, please click on the following link:

A backgrounder follows.

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Backgrounder – Digital Public Square Project

The Digital Public Square project’s activities will help to:

  • Increase political accountability and transparency;
  • Support citizen monitoring of human rights violations;
  • Increase connectivity between a community’s global diaspora and domestic and international stakeholders to help generate and share alternative narratives on key issues of concern;
  • Broaden the number of people who can participate in active national debates, including marginalized or purposefully excluded groups;
  • Increase the access that citizens, civil society organizations and activists have to global information and communications networks;
  • Increase connectivity between citizens and civil society within their own countries; and
  • Amplify diverse voices, narratives and expression in oppressive societies.