Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are designed for security and privacy but would you really need to be using one? The answer really depends on the place you will using the Internet from. Countries vary in their attitude towards Internet users, so do Canadians need to be looking at VPNs?
Given its proximity to the United States, it is not much of a wonder that Canada has been heading firmly in similar directions about Internet censorship. In fact, over the past few years there have been disturbing movements by the Canadian government to increase regulation on Internet users.
In 2017 the ruling of a case by the Supreme Court of Canada showed this clearly – that Canada agreed with worldwide Internet censorship. In addition to that, users who want to participate in P2P file sharing will also find themselves scrutinized as anti-piracy enforcement firms bring their attention to the country.
If you’re in Canada and are beginning to worry about these moves – you’re right to be since it is very real.
Canadian Supreme Court Ruling Shows Internet Censorship Approval
Although technically not related to VPNs and Internet privacy directly, developments in Canada over the past few years show worrying trends. In 2017 a ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada approved of a company’s efforts to attempt to force the blocking of certain websites.
While this was based on a very specific case, it does show that the legal system can lean firmly towards censorship action in some form of other. The ruling even affected Google as the court felt that ‘Google was subject to the jurisdiction of Canadian courts by virtue of its operations in Canada.’
The decision was troubling and poses the danger of having set a very dangerous precedent in the country.
FairPlay Canada Tried To Block Website Access
As recently as last year, a coalition of telecommunications and entertainment companies in Canada tried to propose the blocking of websites which they claimed were involved in copyright infringement. Dubbed ‘FairPlay Canada’, the group aimed at the formation of a body dedicated to sending lists to sites to block to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).
Best of all – the coalition would have no oversight, meaning they could basically do whatever they wanted. The move came about because the group used an age-old argument bandied around the world for year, that that illegal streaming of copyrighted media was harming businesses.
Thankfully, this blatant attempt to grab control of Internet censorship was denied along with much criticism. Yet the reason why it was denied was simply because CRTC claimed copyright law is not within its oversight.
This is worrying because groups such as FairPlay Canada could possibly get such regulation passed – if it finds the right avenue of appeal.
Canada Already Has Tough Anti-Piracy Laws
Countries around the world vary in their enforcement of copyright law. For example, many would be aware that companies doggedly pursue P2P file sharers with lawsuits in hand. Canada isn’t different in this and in fact has very similar legal guidelines on the matter.
This has in the past already led to the closure of websites which not just violate copyright laws, but even act as enablers of said infringements. These elements are all ingredients for a system open to abuse and misuse, certainly not a good sign for Canadians who may simply be trying to enjoy an Internet free of restrictions.
CSE Thinks It Is Above The Law
The Communications Security Establishment (CSE) has in the past been accused of acting illegally when it comes to surveillance in Canada. The most notable occasion was revealed in the Snowden leaks when information that it carried out surveillance activities without a warrant in the country.
To this day, CSE continues to carry out surveillance activities in the country and states that it “may choose to keep records of Canadians’ private communications”. This resulted in a slight hiccup in 2015 when information on Canadians was accidentally shared with allies. Oops.
As Stephanie Carvin, a former national security analyst with the Canadian government has said “One of the key things about national security is that you’re allowed to be an asshole.”
VPNs Are Still Legal In Canada
Thankfully the answer to these surveillance nightmares and potential censorship isn’t that difficult – Use a VPN. And even better, VPNs are legal in Canada.
They are already in widespread use, not only within the government but also in businesses and many other forms. There is a caveat though. If you opt to use a VPN that is based in Canada, then the government can force the VPN provider to release user data when necessary.
While most VPNs will claim that they do not keep logs, take this with a pinch of salt and keep a look out for the policies regarding user logs and other data.
What We Look For In A VPN For Canada
1. Privacy and anonymity
With the more obvious horror stories I’ve shared above fresh in your minds, it’s probably a good time for me to suggest that it’s a really good idea to focus on the privacy and anonymity aspects of a VPN for users in Canada. With both the government as well as private industry coming after users, a VPN needs to be able to ensure that your data and activities can be kept exactly the way it should be – private.
One of the best ways to ensure this is to keep an eye out for VPNs that not only have strict no-logging policies but that are also based out of countries that are laxer in their data retention laws. This certainly excludes countries in the five eyes and fourteen eyes jurisdiction.
2. Speed and stability
With an average household speed of 100Mbps in Canada, there should not be a major issue with VPN speeds since almost all top-tier VPN service providers should be able to manage this benchmark.
Although it isn’t really a top-priority location for most VPN servers there is a good reason why – its proximity to the US. Almost all VPN service providers will have a least one, if not more server locations in the US which Canadians can easily access for a low latency connection.
The security spiel on VPNs is the same for Canadians everywhere. The ideal balance is known only to you, as a user. Do you opt for 256-bit encryption at the risk of lower VPN speeds or are you willing to lower that bar for increased speed?
The point in question here is – does X VPN service provider off you the choice of adjustable encryption rates? That is probably what you need to ask if this is an issue for you.
4. Geolocation spoofing
Despite being a US neighbour, Canadians still don’t get access to US-restricted Netflix content. This is one of the reasons why users around the world use VPNs – for geolocation spoofing. Thankfully the proximity also means fast access to US-based VPNs which is great for streaming Netflix.
Look out for one which does support Netflix connections though since many are often blocked by them.
5. P2P support
Since there are increased efforts to crack down on file sharing due to copyright violations, it would be a good idea to also use a VPN connection for that. Not all VPNs are good with P2P so one which supports it broadly or even has P2P optimized servers would be good.
Look out for VPNs that have P2P traffic guidelines clearly spelt out in their terms of service, such as TorGuard or NordVPN.
Best VPNs for Canada
As with all my VPN tests, before judging their speed I always judge my own. The following is my actual broadband speed based on a service line of 500Mbps, without a VPN connection active:
As I am based in Malaysia, my speeds will tend to be high connecting to Asia-region VPN servers and slower as I connect to servers in the US or Europe. For this test I connected to a Canada-based speed test server to give you an idea of relative speed over distance.
As you can see, a VPN-free connection to Canada nets me a decent speed of 160 Mbps.
- Price is based on the currency exchange rate of 1 USD = 1.34 CAD.
- Price shown is based on 12-mo subscriptions. Price can get cheaper when you subscribe for a longer period.
- Offshore privacy protection
- Full 256-bit encryption
- 148 VPN locations
"This VPN rates at the top of almost all our lists at BitCatcha simply because it offers such good service on a very broad criteria – rare for a VPN!"
One of the best VPN services I have ever tested, ExpressVPN has so far been my top pick no matter which country I am ranking it for. It has a massively broad range of server locations and many servers. Even better, it is based out of the British Virgin Islands which is lax in its data retention laws.
I have tested the service comprehensively and have no hesitation in recommending them as the top VPN service provider for Canadians. ExpressVPN is stable and allows access on a good range of devices as well.
As an idea of how good it gets, I compared my default line speed without a VPN to an ExpressVPN covered test to the same location. With ExpressVPN on and connected to a server in Canada, I managed to eke out a 25Mbps downstream speed.
Again, something to note here is my actual distance from Canada which is as far as it can probably get. The performance that ExpressVPN shows in this case doesn’t match up to what I normally expect from them. Read our full ExpressVPN Review for more information!
- No logs
- Kill switch
- Supports 6 devices
"With its sleek interface, stable speeds and fantastic longer-term price plans, Nord is an outstanding choice for any VPN user."
NordVPN takes a strong second place in our Best VPN for Canada list for many reasons. One of the first is that they are based in Panama, which is also a good place to be for VPNs. Aside from that, NordVPN has a sterling reputation and is another VPN provider that has a huge number of servers in many countries.
Their strict no-logging policy combines with 256-bit military grade encryption and great price plans to offer almost anyone a deal that is hard to resist.
With a 34Mbps downstream speed, in this round of tests NordVPN managed to gain an edge over ExpressVPN. What does make them more attractive thorough is that they not only allow P2P traffic but have specially optimized servers for P2P traffic!
- Built for P2P
- TorGuard stealth proxy
- Supports 5 connections
"One of the best VPNs for P2P file sharing, TorGuard is simply a must for any P2P users in Canada."
One of the most important deciding factors in TorGuard’s placement is that it is a very P2P-friendly VPN service provider. There isn’t a lot of bling on the user-facing side, but it is remarkable in performance.
There is one key difference between TorGuard and many competitors in that it allows you to choose what level of encryption you prefer. This means that for P2P users, you can turn down encryption a notch and enjoy faster torrenting speeds anytime!
Aside from that, TorGuard has many other redeeming qualities, such as stable speeds, multi-platform capability and the ability to bypass VPN blockers.
As one of the top three best VPNs for Canada, TorGuard of course met certain speed requirements. This showed in my test result for it from a Vancouver-based VPN server and again, Canadians should be able to match speed ratio with US-based servers.
The only downside is that for younger users who are used to the sleekness of modern applications, the TorGuard interface will look like something from the past.
- Offers data compression
- Ad blocking
- Supports 7 devices
"CyberGhost offers secure and private service but are perhaps not on such an even footing with the likes of ExpressVPN."
CyberGhosties are happy with them and they have certainly tried to be hip and upbeat in their marketing. This is another of the more well-known names in the VPN industry but personally I feel that they just might be a tiny bit overhyped.
Specification wise CyberGhost talks the good talk but having gone through test with them I advise a small pinch of salt. Do keep in mind though that this is a ranking list, so my expectations are quite high.
Canadians need to take note that most of CyberGhost servers are in the EU zone, but thankfully, they have the US side as well. This makes them appealing to a wide audience except perhaps those from the Asia region where it is a little more limited.
Unfortunately, their speed test results don’t seem up to par for Canada and I barely eked out useable speeds of 5Mbps. A few years ago, this would have been passable, but in today’s era of high speed broadband – nearly intolerable.
- Forced 256-bit encryption
- Unlimited P2P
- Supports 10 devices
"Great for the Paranoid but perhaps won’t be top of the list for Canada-based users, IPVanish is highly marketed but poorly supported."
IPVanish has suffered greatly in recent times due to its embroilment in certain …shall we say, unfortunate incidents. Yet aside from that, take note that they are under new management and hopefully such things will become just speed bumps in their past.
Moving those incidents aside, they remain a VPN giant in the field and boast speeds that are impressive. Luckily for that, since if you have any complaints about their speed, there isn’t much you can do as they force 256-bit encryption on everyone without exception.
As I mentioned, IPVanish, say what you like about them, offers some interesting speeds. These numbers are certainly capable of putting them on our top VPN for Canada list. With my location in Malaysia and running the test out of their Canada server, I got a very strong 41Mbps down speed.
This bodes well for Canadians who will be connecting to servers in proximity to them such as in the US. The one major flaw here is in their customer service which is bad. If you’re from a Western country and expect a certain standard of support – it’s here that IPVanish falls below par.
- Supports WireGuard protocol
- Allows P2P traffic
- Does not monitor traffic
"Dependable and comes with a good mix of security features, PureVPN is based out of the EU jurisdiction."
PureVPN is one of the rare services that seems focused of fast, fast and faster VPN speeds. It has been touted to support line speeds of up to 500Mbps, but exactly how far that claim goes really is anyone’s guess in some cases.
One big benefit of trying them out is that they are one of the few in the market now who are allowing access to the WireGuard protocol – a next-gen protocol that is supposedly lightyears ahead of OpenVPN. It is a little limited in coverage though, with a presence in only around five countries.
Connecting to a Vancouver VPN server I was able to get close to 20Mbps – not the best results in the world but something that would still work for many users. In time perhaps this will change if they decide to fully go ahead with the implementation of WireGuard, but then again, so will other VPN service providers.
- Optimized servers for P2P
- Allows server hopping
- Supports 10 devices
"FastestVPN isn’t the fastest but it certainly offers a value proposition that is hard to challenge."
FastestVPN isn’t the fastest I have tested but neither is it the slowest. It offers more limited countries to run your connection out of compared to many top-tier VPNs but at prices from as low as 83 cents a month it is a steal. They also have P2P optimized servers which makes them good for that as well.
The low prices do come with one serious drawback and that is the limited performance in overcoming geo-blocking. At last we discovered, FastestVPN can’t allow you to access either Netflix US content or the UK’s BBC iPlayer – bummer!
Do I Really Need A VPN In Canada?
When I first approached this topic, I was a little reserved as I usually focus on certain areas in my interest. Exploring the landscape in Canada, I was quite alarmed at what I found, and my first thought was that I positively had to recommend something to our friends for that market.
Upon reflection, I realised that the scenario is being played out in multiple countries around the world at the same time. Even in my home base of Malaysia, alarming moves are being made towards increased censorship and so on.
With that, I really do recommend that Canadians take stock of the current situation and seriously consider looking at one of the VPNs on this list to protect themselves. The situation worldwide is bleak, my friends, better safe than sorry.
To recap, here are the top 3 VPN for Canada:
SECURITY & PRIVACY