Electronic Frontier Canada

Date:Monday, February 10, 1997

To: The Honourable Mr. John Snobelen
Minister of Education & Training
13th Floor, Mowat Block, 900 Bay Street
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1L2
From: Dr. David Jones, President
Electronic Frontier Canada
20 Richmond Avenue
Kitchener, Ontario N2G 1Y9

phone:(416) 325-2600
fax:(416) 325-2608
phone:(905) 525-9140 ext. 24689
fax:(905) 546-9995

Dear Mr. Snobelen,
Re: Internet in the classroom

I write to you in my capacity as President of Electronic Frontier Canada, the country's largest organization devoted to the preservation of Charter rights in cyberspace.

We at Electronic Frontier Canada were alarmed by your recent statement, appearing in the Kitchener-Waterloo Record (February 5, 1997) that you wish to ``develop ways to control information that comes into classrooms off the Internet''.

The Internet is a tremendous information and communication resource that will play an increasingly valuable and necessary role for students in their research, learning, and understanding of diverse and complex issues that face us in today's society. We believe the Internet is not fundamentally different from any other medium, and therefore it is no less deserving of protection from undue governmental intrusion, restriction, or meddling than traditional media. In Ontario, we do not currently have laws that ``control information that comes into classrooms through the school library'', nor would we want to see such controls enacted.

Electronic Frontier Canada is firmly opposed to a legal requirement for certain kinds of ``parental control software'' in the schools. Most such software does not provide a list of what sites are blocked, nor what criteria are used. For example, one popular brand, Cybersitter, is reported to block the sites of such organizations as the National Organization for Women. Another, Cyber Patrol, is reported to block sites about gay rights.

As members of a free and democratic society, we should ensure the free flow of information to all citizens, to better enable intelligent debate and informed decisions. As professionals involved in education, we must set a good example for our students. Parents and teachers should provide students with background, perspective, and context that allows them to make wise choices. The proper way to combat bad speech on the Internet is with good speech, not with censorship.

We would be happy to meet with you at your convenience to discuss this issue further.

David Jones, PhD
President, Electronic Frontier Canada