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.