Michael Geist is among three University of Ottawa law professors who will be inducted into the Order of Ontario, the province’s highest honour, on February 27.
Geist, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at uOttawa, pioneered and popularized the field of law and technology in Canada, will share the honour with fellow professors Elizabeth Sheehy and Allan Rock.
“I started in the late 1990s, and after the dot com boom there were some who said ‘this fad will end.’ That turned out not to be the case,” said Geist, 49.
The Internet and e-commerce is a field that now affects most people. Geist says that “not all of the rules” have yet been written.
“I’ve been very active in trying to shape policy. I helped create Canada’s first public interest technology law clinic, the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic, which often intervenes at the Supreme Court and works to educate and better engage the public.”
The Order of Ontario announcement states Geist, “represents the interests of Canadians, defending online human rights such as freedom of speech, and urging citizens to become actively engaged in government policy. His tireless advocacy and dedication to the public interest has exceptionally benefitted Ontarians and all Canadians.”
In an interview with the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin, Geist said that one of the programs he is most proud of is “Global Technology Law and Policy,” a joint course offered by uOttawa and the University of Haifa in Israel.
“From a teaching perspective, it’s one I’ve always been excited about. It reflects a lot of the work I do,” he said.
The first week of the course is held in Ottawa with five classes focused on Internet governance and privacy law issues. Students then transfer to the University of Haifa, where the course continues for the next two weeks with classes on privacy and an examination of intellectual property policy development.
Each year, there are 20 students – 10 each from Israel and Canada – in the program who have the opportunity to experience the similarities and differences between Canada and Israel. The course includes meetings with Supreme Court justices in both countries, the Israeli Ambassador to Canada, and leading privacy officials.
The course, now in its sixth year, takes place in May and all students accepted into the program will receive a $2,500 bursary from the Gerald Schwartz and Heather Reisman Foundation to cover travel and other costs.
“It’s part of my emphasis on taking a global perspective to digital issues,” said Geist, who was also a visiting professor for a short course at Tel Aviv University last year and is just back from teaching another short course at Hong Kong University.
Geist is married to Allison Geffen, a family physician, and they have three children – Jordan, Ethan and Gabi – all of whom are graduates of the Ottawa Jewish Community School and who have all been active in programs such as March of the Living and Torah High.
Geist is active on Internet-related boards, including the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (which runs the dot-ca domain), and he often appears before parliamentary committees on digital policy issues such as copyright, privacy, net neutrality, and freedom of expression.
Geist is a Globe and Mail columnist specializing in digital issues and was previously a columnist for the Toronto Star and Ottawa Citizen. A frequent user of social media, Geist has more than 86,000 followers on Twitter. More of Geist’s writings are available at www.michaelgeist.ca.