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 nearby Asia-region VPN servers and for the most part, gradually decline as I connect to servers further away. This is a general rule of thumb since distance does play a part in line quality, affecting both speed and latency.
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 = 1.41 CAD.
- Price shown is lowest based on plans available from each VPN service provider.
- 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 has been steadily improving its services and 2019 was a very exciting year for them. This year we re-evaluated their performance and they managed to improve even further on past performance.
Even with a slight hike in their pricing, they remain extremely competitive and offer the most serious bang-for-buck that we see in this very challenging space today.
They are an excellent choice as Best VPN for Canada due to 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, 256-bit military-grade encryption, and great price plans combine well to offer almost anyone a deal that is hard to resist.
With a 114 Mbps downstream speed, NordVPN remains as one of the top Choices for this region and remains at the top of our recommended VPNs for Canada list. What makes them an even more attractive proposition is that they not only allow P2P traffic but have specially optimized servers for it!
Read our in-depth review on NordVPN to learn why it’s Bitcatcha’s #1 VPN!
- Offers data compression
- Ad blocking
- Supports 7 devices
"CyberGhost has strengthened its offering and has much improved its overall quality of service."
CyberGhost is perhaps one of the services which has the most distinct marketing identity of all the services we’ve assessed. In fact, they seem to have built up quite a cult following thanks to the hip and upbeat tone of their marketing.
This is another of the more well-known names in the VPN industry and personally, I have warmed to them greatly over time. I re-run performance tests regularly and find that CyberGhost has much improved over the first time I came across it.
Today, I feel that it has in fact grown sufficiently that it moves up my ranking ladder a fair bit. The best part of the deal is that despite all the improvements I have observed, CyberGhost still has managed to keep prices very reasonable as long as you commit to their extended plan.
Canadians need to take note that most CyberGhost servers are in the EU zone, but thankfully, they have a pretty solid performance both in the US as well as Canada. This gives them a relatively broad base of appeal to a global audience.
If you’re travelling and need to visit the Asia region frequently for some reason, specific choices are more limited but performance is solid still so long as you connect to the right countries there (like Singapore).
Their extreme performance on Canada-based servers gives them a solid leg to stand on in these rankings.
See our full review on CyberGhost to learn more!
- Multi-Hop connection
- Supports many platforms
- No logs
"Frills-free and consistent in performance, Surfshark is making its name as a strong upcoming contender."
Surfshark may be new to the business having just come into play late 2018 but it has come out with a bang. Even as it fields less than 1,000 servers in 60-odd countries, it manages to offer strong and stable connections as shown in our speed tests.
They are also able to handle P2P / torrents plus make available multi-region content for movie streaming sites like Netflix. For me the holy grail of Netflix is US region content and I’ve been getting my binge-fix off Surfshark for the past year with no issues whatsoever.
Surfshark also offers this service an excellent price-points on their two-year plan. Keep an eye on this one, folks, it may be heading up in our lists as more time passes!
Learn more of its excellence at our thorough review on Surfshark!
- 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 one of my top picks 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 a strong 86 Mbps downstream speed even though upload speeds were a bit disappointing.
Again, something to note here is my actual distance from Canada which is as far as it can probably get. The performance that ExpressVPN is about par for the course for them overall. Naturally, as a rule of thumb, the closer the VPN server the better their speed is likely to be for you.
Read our complete review on ExpressVPN to see why it’s one of our top picks!
- 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 the past 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 121 Mbps down speed.
Strangely enough, it suffers quite a bit on the upstream but I’m pretty sure that isn’t a top priority for most of us.
This bodes well for Canadians who will be connecting to servers in proximity to them or even in the neighbouring US. The one major flaw here is in their customer service which is not that great. If you’re from a Western country and expect a certain standard of support – it’s here that IPVanish falls below par.
Read our in-depth review on IPVanish to find out more!
- 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. A downside is that unless you fork out extra for a residential IP, use of this VPN with Netflix is very dodgy.
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.
Read our thorough analysis on TorGuard for more information!
- Optimized servers for P2P
- Allows server hopping
- Supports 10 devices
"FastestVPN has been trying hard to live up its name and has made leaps ahead in the quality of its Canada service."
FastestVPN has a tough name to fight and when I first tried it – it honestly wasn’t that hot. Since then I’ve re-evaluated their service and they’ve made a ton of improvement in performance.
Add to that the fact they’ve managed to keep prices extremely as well – it’s only $1.56/mo on their 3-year plan. While it’s true that the FastestVPN network isn’t that awesome, Canadians don’t have that problem locally since their servers here are very steady.They also have P2P optimized servers which makes them good for that as well.
The latest iteration of their service also seems to have resolved many earlier problems such as the hiccups in service when trying to use Netflix. Now, everything streams just peachy and at these speeds – enjoyably so.
Speeds on FastestVPN when connected to a Toronto-based server for me exceeded 200 Mbps. That is extreme for a country that’s literally across the world from where I am, so there is little doubt it can perform even better for Canadians.
Head over to our FastestVPN review to learn more!
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