Why is Canada’s Minister for Citizenship and Immigration Commenting on BlackBerry Ban in India?

Jason Kenney—Canada’s Minister for Citizenship and Immigration—today commented on the looming ban on BlackBerry smartphones in India that is set to go into effect near the end of October. Research In Motion (RIM)—the maker of the popular BlackBerry smartphone—is a Canadian company. So why is a top Canadian immigration official commenting on a legal and technological issue with potential economic impact for Canada? According to Indian newspaper, the Hindu, his remarks were quite interesting to say the least.

“I am proud of the success of the Canadian company…we are encouraging India not to choke down such a technology,” he told reporters today. Then the reporters asked another question and the topic changed back to Canada’s recent crackdown on immigration, and its denials of visas to certain Indian police officers and border security force guards on the grounds of human rights violations. Woah! This is exactly why he should not be commenting on the BlackBerry ban. Regardless of whether or not recent Indian allegations that the visa refusals were for made up reasons (Canada is also starting to review marriage applications of Indian immigrants more thoroughly to prevent fraud) are true or not, Kenney has made it look like Canada and India are playing tug of war with the lives of Indian immigrants to Canada.

Is it Kenney place to interject himself and immigration into what was an issue of security and censorship until just now? India wants the ability to decrypt messages sent between BlackBerry devices. BlackBerrys use varying levels of encryption to protect their user’s data and privacy, and India says it has fears that terrorists will use them to avoid detection while plotting and coordinating attacks. Okay, fair enough. But then the whole issue of censorship comes up as well, as BlackBerrys route their internet through servers RIM has in Canada and thus are able to avoid the restrictions and blocks that censors impose. The question of whether or not RIM should play ball with a country that tests its moral obligations to its customers and its ideals arrises.

Kenney’s comments make it look like Canada’s government has started taking punitive action against India for demanding access to this encrypted stream of BlackBerry data. Immigration should have absolutely nothing to do with what India is requesting. Unless of course, this is Canada starting to kick the political football. What is India going do now?

Ever think that a threatened ban on BlackBerrys in India end up an immigration issue? Let me know what you think. Smartphones and the rest of the tech industry are really starting to play a bigger role in the world through the economy. Like internet big.

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