Bluenet Log-in
UCC’s Community Portal

Edward Snowden announced as keynote for World Affairs Conference on Feb. 2

Traitor or hero? None other than controversial privacy activist Edward Snowden — joined by journalist Glenn Greenwald — has been announced as be the keynote speakers for the World Affairs Conference (WAC), co-organized by Upper Canada College and Branksome Hall, and Canada’s oldest annual student-run conference, on Monday, Feb. 2.

A message to our community, sent Tuesday, Jan. 27, has already led to some lively feedback, commentary and opinion regarding our student organizers’ choice of special guest. Tell us what you think. Although Snowden will be taking questions from students only, we invite you to also enter into the debate surrounding this event, by sharing a question or two you’d like to ask Snowden in the box below.

Addressing a national student audience of 900 delegates from 27 different schools in Grades 10 through 12, the topic of the live, moderated discussion will be “Privacy vs. Security: A Discussion of Personal Privacy in the Digital Age.” This keynote represents the first time Snowden will address a live audience comprised of high school students.

WAC continues its tradition of welcoming provocative speakers to debate global issues. Snowden, the former National Security Agency intelligence contractor, revealed classified documents relating to unconstitutional surveillance practices and international counter-intelligence operations. He will speak live via video from Russia.

Joining Snowden on video from Brazil is the journalist he entrusted to break the story; Greenwald’s work, based on the Snowden disclosure, won a Pulitzer Prize last year. By all accounts, Greenwald and Snowden’s mutual admiration and combined intellectual clout make for riveting discussion.

A livestream may be accessed remotely at 7 p.m. on Feb. 2 at


We recognize that this is a charged issue, and people feel strongly. We do ask that comments remain civil and that participants refrain from making personal remarks about each other.

24 responses to “Edward Snowden announced as keynote for World Affairs Conference on Feb. 2”

  1. shawn gustaw says:

    Hi there,
    I was just curious if this would be open to the public/university students?
    I’m currently a UofT student and am extremely interested in attending! I’ve already RSVP’d but rereading the event it looks like it might not be open to the public.

    Shawn Gustaw

    • Lucas says:

      Hello Shawn: I helped organize this Conference, and yes, since its inception, the keynote address of the World Affairs Conference was meant to be and has been open to the public. The seed money for this event was specifically directed for the purpose of sharing our resources and fostering debate within the community.

  2. Kathryn Buoen Abuzzahab,RN,JD,LLM says:

    Thanks Upper Canada College’s WAC for securing the best and brightest to be your keynote speakers on Feb 2nd. You too must be best and brightess. Thank you.

  3. Neil Kitson says:

    Great choices. If you could get the Minister of National Defence to appear for questions as well, that would be really interesting.

  4. Richard Bradlow says:

    I am a current parent, Old Boy and strong supporter of UCC. I am writing to express my concern regarding the decision to have Edward Snowden as a keynote speaker at the WAC.

    I certainly support bringing provocative, controversial speakers to engage in debate with the students. However I draw the line at criminals. In a recent email to the community, UCC described Mr. Snowden as a ‘privacy activist’. I think it would be more accurate to describe him as a fugitive from justice and a self-admitted thief. While it is true that he has not been convicted, this is only a technical argument. Snowden has admitted that he stole and released information in circumstances which clearly breached U.S. law. In addition, he fled the law rather than defend himself. Whatever one thinks of his actions, motivations or impact, it is not a matter of opinion that he broke the law and has evaded punishment. By condoning his participation at the WAC, UCC is lending its name to legitimization of his actions. I fear this will have negative repercussions for the school’s reputation and it is not a lesson that I personally want my son to receive. The benefits of his participation in a debate about privacy are significantly outweighed by the optics of the school condoning criminal behaviour. Whatever one’s view on privacy, the law is the law.

    Richard Bradlow ’90

    • Colin Stevenson says:

      But that would mean that no-one should have listened to Nelson Mandela either. And he was duly convicted under the laws of his country. Snowden hasn’t even been convicted of anything yet.

  5. Manik Saraf says:

    Hello there,

    Is this event open to the public?. I am a University of Toronto student and I would like to attend.


  6. Simon McNeil says:

    Given the demand and limited capacity, the World Affairs Conference is only open to student delegates and members of the UCC community of alumni, parents, faculty and registered media.

    With that being said, we will be producing a livestream of the WAC keynote so that people interested in viewing this event can do so.

  7. Jeff Collins says:

    As a parent of a UCC student, pleased to be able to participate via Livestream to hear the thoughts & comments of this provocative, polarizing, & undoubtedly quite interesting individual.

  8. Andrew Carragher ’88 says:

    I received an email from the UCC Community about Edward Snowden being video conferenced into UCC for the World Affairs Conference.

    I find this email troublesome and a risky thing for UCC to be supporting. I feel it is important for the students to engage in a healthy debate regarding privacy but inviting Snowden alone to “address” students may send a message of implicit approval and make him almost a heroic like figure.

    To be specific the words used in the first lines of the invitation are “amazing feat” and “share the excitement”. Snowden is a controversial figure and is technically a criminal and fugitive and he has put Canadian and US Military forces lives and work at risk.

    The school should consider a more balanced approach. At a minimum there should be a representative of the opposite view to Snowden with equal time allotment — perhaps someone from the Secret Service or Military explaining the damage created by Snowden and the fight against terrorism.

    I have seen many interviews of Snowden and the reporter. They will drive the agenda and choose their own questions and the other side will not be fairly represented it is just not possible. If there was an unbiased interviewer between both sides you would have a level playing field.

    The risk of choosing such a divisive topic and then presenting one speaker on one side only will likely be perceived as biased. I believe this is short sighted and risky.

    Whether the students organize this event or not it is sanctioned by the school and will fall on its shoulders.

    These divisive topics are good but the school should maintain its neutrality unless it has decided it wants to make a stand on the topic which this looks like it is doing.

  9. Doug Higgins '10 says:

    Very interesting! Will definitely be watching this on the livestream…

    Regarding the comments posted above by Richard and Andrew:

    I think that hosting a figure like Mr. Snowden could be an excellent opportunity for UCC students to discuss some very real issues that affect them personally, even if the speaker is a controversial figure.

    Yes, Mr. Snowden broke the law by leaking documents from the NSA; it’s not contentious at all to identify him as a criminal or a ‘thief’. However, it’s within the nuances of his crime that the true debate lies, because this is hardly a black and white issue. The documents he leaked revealed massive electronic surveillance programs being conducted illegally within the United States, in staggering violations of the United States 4th and 5th Amendments. Regardless of their intent, these programs pose a troubling threat to the material freedoms that we (Canadians as well as Americans) claim to hold so dear. Say what you will about him potentially endangering soldiers, the man revealed illegal domestic surveillance on an unprecedented scale. Whether that revelation justifies his crime is the real question- I’d contend that it does.

    The debate on electronic civil liberties is one we are going to have to have, and like it or not, Mr. Snowden is an important example within that debate. I hardly think that the boys at UCC are so impressionable (or naive, perhaps) as to take everything presented to them by a speaker at face value… having seen several guest speakers been taken to task before. Kudos to UCC for bringing in a speaker who invites real debate about a pressing issue!

    Go Blues!

    • Jeff White says:

      I’m sure Richard and Andrew would be much happier if UCC invited some other unconvicted criminals, like say, Stephen Harper or Barack Obama, to discuss world issues.

    • Vincente says:

      The law might be the law, but as Charles Dickens says in “Oliver Twist,” The law, sir, is an ass!

  10. john e loe says:

    Law is laudable and righteous only when it reflects and imparts justice.

  11. Inaru says:

    Will definitely watch. The level of secrecy in govt, like unlimited campaign donations, has gotten completely out of hand. Even in matters of national security, our senate committee chairs at the very least should be able to take legislative aids and take notes, which currently they are forbidden to do. So, how exactly are our reps supposed to balance out the power of the executive to conduct surveillance, and assess covert missions like drone strikes, to name just two policies that impact us, our image in the world, and our economy?

    Insofar as the privacy/encryption debate, I think while many internet users would like more privacy, it’s intimidating to hear govt will especially focus on those who use sophisticated encryption. And it’s intimidating to learn how to use sophisticated encryption even if we don’t fear our govt’s personal attention. Are we to rely on ISPs to do it for us?

  12. I just had to leave a message to say, Congratulations & you are heroes, and WTG, and OMG, and thank you, and Heroes will be filling the room, and I hope nothing bad happens to this event, and I wish I could come, and one more thing, I will be spreading the word about this event. FREE SNOWDEN 2015!

  13. Rob, alumnus says:

    I disagree with having Edward Snowden as the key-note speaker at the WAC. At a minimum there should be a second speaker who has an opposing view. Would UCC have the former head of the NSA in to talk to students?

    This seems to be more of a publicity stunt than anything else considering the constant stories on social media put out by the school. I think this throws the image of the school into the far left. It is an association that can and will be made at face value, (however undeserving that may be). Regardless of your stance on privacy and electronic communication monitoring, Edward Snowden is a fugitive living in Russia. It is absurd that he is allowed to talk to the students.

  14. Peckj says:

    Those who do not support this choice should reflect on Stephen Harper’s pledge to enact legislation protecting whistleblowers.

  15. Victoria Reeve says:

    Mr. Snowden is a whistleblower, not the devil incarnate. Now, the people and organizations upon whom he blew the whistle? THEM you might want to keep far, far away from your children.

  16. Doug McLellan says:

    I wish I could see this talk.
    I want to know what the Canadian dictator(harper).has in mind for us!

  17. timothy mcflowerpower says:

    Hi there. I have a few interesting questions to ask…

    1.) Do people know you weren’t really working for the NSA, except you were improperly granted a security clearance to do IT work? Do people also know you were just an IT worker employed by USIS to service systems owned by the military (ie. You were a government contractor, and working for the same company as the navy yard shooter, except you decided to download a lot of documents, steal them, and leave the country, etc.)

    In order to be employed by the NSA (as a signals intelligence worker), which you weren’t, you’d have to have a basic electronics knowledge. You are not even an electronics technician, technologist or electrical engineer, you are just a “disgruntled” IT worker.)

    2.) Do you believe this video explains your behavior / actions accurately? If not, how do you feel it differs?

    Raytheon Company – Cyber60: Insider Threat

    3.) Since surveillance has existed since the early 1900s, and the birth of electronics (which was much later), how do you feel when people tell you that military signals intelligence existed even before the “internet” was created? (Even before you were born as well.) And would they still believe everything you said?

    “I’m more willing to risk imprisonment than curtailment of my intellectual freedom,” said Snowden. “I remember what the Internet was like before it was being watched. There’s never been anything like it in the world.”

    4.) Since Exelis put worldview 3 in orbit, and lots of other countries have their own military satellites (which has enough resolution to tell whether a house-plant on the ground is sick), do you feel that Americans are unique in developing a signals intelligence system which intercepts electronics communications? How would you feel if others told you that every country which has a military force has similar capabilities to the NSA (including Germany’s BND?)

    5.) Do you feel that you’ve effectively upgraded the signals intelligence branches of every military force worldwide? (And that is possibly the main reason they like you.)

    6.) Last question. How do you feel about ISIS using the disclosures to benefit/aid themselves in avoiding coalition forces in Iraq? They’ve even developed a manual here:

    ( )

    7.) Last question. Since you are now living in Russia, do you think that since everyone knows all of these things above, that you’ll probably live there for as long as you can? Or will you change your mind and leave?

  18. Paul Ballard says:

    I watched the livestream event. Are there plans to allow others to access the session?

  19. Stan Squires says:

    I am from Vancouver and I wanted to say that this new security law should be condemned by everyone.It is reminiscent of the Joe Mcarthy era in the USA during the 1950s when everyone was suspected of been a communist and many people were arrested and lost their jobs.It is good that Edward Snowden exposed this dangerous policy of the Canadian gov.The opposition should oppose this security law.This law should be ignored by all people.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *