Controversy may forever surround Edward Snowden, but many do look up to him as an Internet-age hero. Snowden, who is currently in Moscow, was invited to speak to students at Canada's Queen's University for their Model United Nations Invitational on Thursday, Nov. 12.
Snowden reportedly did not see the online invitation from the university right away, but his legions of Twitter followers made sure he eventually got the message by retweeting it hundreds of times.
More than 600 students and faculty were in attendance as Snowden delivered his keynote address via Skype.
“Too often, when we are engaging in society we don’t get to seem to get the right response. By working together, and if we amplify our voice … we can get results,” Snowden said of the nearly-missed speaking opportunity, putting emphasis on how much public opinion can and should be of utmost importance.
In addition to those from Queen's University, the invitational also included close to 250 delegates from 15 other schools all across North America. Snowden cautioned all of them that they have a right to know why and how their governments are keeping tabs on them.
Snowden used the video link talk as an opportunity to tell the audience how he himself bought in to the whole idea that his own government was transparent and honest in their service to the American people. However, as he rose through the ranks of the National Security Agency and gained more access to classified materials, it became clear to him that the truth and what the government was telling the country – even the world – were not in sync.
He decided to go public with many classified documents in 2013 and was promptly charged with espionage. He has been living in exile in Russia while seeking asylum in other countries, including the EU member states.
David Lyon, who wrote "Surveillance After Snowden," said he does not consider the privacy advocate to be a traitor or a whistleblower because Snowden did not approach journalists anonymously. Instead, Lyon called Snowden a truth teller – one who tells the truth “because they believe they must, no matter the risks," he said.
On Canada's own controversial anti-terrorism act, Bill C-51, Snowden said he thinks it is a dangerous piece of legislation that would allow Canada's own government to legally spy on its own citizens and make arrests without warrants with no clear definition of what could be considered a threat to national security.