A column in the Canadian Lawyer suggests that “technology in a modern advanced society such as the one in which we live, should be recognized as a constitutionally protected right to ‘life, liberty and security of the person,’ under s. 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms”.
Does this suggestion appeal to you? What do you suppose it means in practice?
A bit later on, the columnist suggests he is talking about “access to at least the most basic and rudimentary elements of technology, and arguably, reasonable levels of technology”.
So: the right is access to technology – but … provided by whom? At whose expense? With what consequences for its denial? And with what limits?
It could mean that government (since Charter rights are rights against the state) may not do things that restrict access to technology. German courts have held that access to the Internet is a kind of human right, presumably a counterpart to freedom of expression and association. Should that principle be adopted in Canada, in the courts or by legislation?
The present column seems to go further than that. Would it give a person the right to a net neutrality policy, so access to (some) content is not denied?
Presumably the right would have to be – like some other Charter rights – subject to reasonable limits, such as laws that protect other values, e.g. copyright. A constitutional right to access to technology is probably not a constitutional right to peer-to-peer sharing of other people’s copyrighted works. And other constitutional rights, including privacy, would have to be balanced with it.
Most Charter rights can be provided for free, and claims that required public spending to provide the rights have not fared so well as ‘negative’ rights not to be interfered with. Is a right to access technology a positive right that requires state spending to provide for people who cannot afford their own technology? That gets complicated in a hurry.
Is this a discussion worth having, or is the column just an overly ambitious use of ‘rights’ language to make a statement about social pressures?