CIRA forced to revisit racial profiling issue

The Canadian Internet Registry Authority was taken off-guard Monday after a self-appointed domain name watchdog said a court had dismissed a lawsuit that CIRA claims it never filed.

According to Ottawa-based, an unnamed judge for the Ontario Superior Court of Justice ended a case brought against it by CIRA. Last May CIRAWatch, which allows users to post commons about the organization in charge of dot-ca domains, featured an article that accused CIRA of racial profiling. The article said CIRA staff had asked some registrants, particularly those with names of Middle Eastern origin, to provide proof of citizenship before processing their requests.

At the time, CIRA had responded by serving CIRAWatch with a notice pursuant to section 5 of the Libel and Slander Act, R.S.O. 199, c.L-12. But Gabriel Ahad, CIRA’s director of communications and marketing, said the matter was dropped once CIRAWatch agreed to remove the posting.

“”We’re in the business of managing the registry. We have no interest in taking actions like that against anyone,”” he said. “”They took down the article, they apologized. That’s all we care about. I don’t know why this is happening.””

CIRA Monday responded with a statement of its own which categorized the information from CIRAWatch as “”misleading and inaccurate.””

Although it contains links to CIRA’s board of directors, CIRAWatch offers no contact information on its Web site apart from an e-mail address to submit news. In response to an e-mail sent by, CIRAWatch said it stands behind its statement.

“”CIRAWatch was in the process of defending itself when CIRA withdrew the action, and a Judge ordered the action dismissed without futher Court process,”” the e-mail said, clarifying that although the matter was dropped last summer, CIRAWatch is merely posting the information now.

“”CIRA’s press release makes it sound like they ‘consented’ to the dismissal, when in fact they initiated it, and CIRAWatch of course agreed to allow the judge to dismiss the case.””

The author of the e-mail went on to say that CIRA also sued the director of CIRAWatch personally when the first libel notice was served, and therefore CIRAWatch no longer releases the names of its directors, contributors or publishers without consent from the individual involved.

At least one person with some experience on domain name issues has criticized CIRA for the way it handled the initial racial profiling allegations. Jonathan Cohen is the senior managing partner of consulting firm Shapiro Cohen in Ottawa, and has served as a director of both CIRA and the Internet Corporation For Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which regulates domain name registration out of the United States. Although he did not agree with the racial profiling allegations, Cohen said CIRA should be more open to criticism.

“”ICANN is very sensitive to criticism and public opinion, and suffers, to put to mildly, more than its fair share and tries very hard to answer it,”” he said. “”Whereas CIRA is basically behind closed doors. Nobody has any reasonable input into it.””

Ahad said CIRA had been nothing but straightforward in releasing statements refuting the racial profiling accusations.

“”If we came out with a program to show that there’s no such thing, it would almost be overkill,”” he said. “”Our rules are so clear: we don’t care what the person or organization’s name is. As long as they meet Canadian presence requirements, that’s ultimately the criteria.””

Cohen said Canada nonetheless needs a strong outlet where registrants can air their views.

“”In some respects, there is a level of sanctimony, holier-than-thou, Big Brother is looking after you, cliquey stuff in this country that just drives me nuts,”” he said. “”ICANN, whatever its faults are — and arguably it has many — is a very open process.””

A search conducted by on the Canadian Legal Information Institute’s Web site showed no mention of any case related to CIRA or CIRAWatch.

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