Canada ranks third out of 65 in Freedom House’s internet freedom index, surpassed only by Iceland and Estonia when it comes to the world’s most open net. That might lead you to believe that the Canadian internet is a bastion of privacy and net neutrality without censorship or surveillance. But you would be mistaken.
While Canada is more progressive than many of its peers in both developed and developing countries, it still suffers from some invasive data retention, mass surveillance, and anti-net neutrality laws and regulations. These are usually passed under the guise of national security and trade deals. Some laws are now in effect while others are still waiting in committee for a vote in Parliament
Furthermore, Canadians are cut off from much of the streaming content that Americans and Brits enjoy. Canadian Netflix has a much smaller catalog of TV shows and movies than American Netflix, for example. Canadians have Crackle TV, but it’s not nearly as comprehensive as Hulu in the US.
To overcome laws that restrict internet freedom and gain access to geo-locked content around the world, Canadians can use a VPN. Short for virtual private, network, a VPN encrypts all of a device’s internet traffic and routes it through a server in a location of the user’s choosing. The encryption prevents internet service providers and other snoopers from deciphering the contents of any traffic they intercept. And by re-routing traffic through a remote server, users are assigned a new IP address and location.
To whittle down our list of the best VPNs for Canada, we’ve assessed providers on the following criteria:
- Traffic logging policy: no storing traffic logs and preferably no metadata logs
- Ability to unblock streaming services: Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, etc
- Country of incorporation: preferably outside the Five Eyes (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and United States)
- Servers and speed: reliable and fast servers both inside and outside of Canada
ExpressVPN stores no traffic logs on user activity and is based in the British Virgin Islands, which are not under UK jurisdiction, if you were wondering. It has consistently proved to be one of the most reliable VPNs for unblocking content, including Netflix. That includes both US and Canadian Netflix, in a web browser and in the Netflix app. ExpressVPN operates servers in 78 countries around the world including Canada. They set a high standard when it comes to speed and reliability. Well-designed, easy-to-use apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, Linux (command line), and certain wifi routers. The lattermost can be used to connect game consoles and set-top boxes like Roku, Chromecast, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire TV.
NordVPN boasts a true zero-logs policy, meaning it doesn’t record the contents of your traffic nor any metadata. The Panama-based provider operates servers in more than 50 countries including Canada. It excels at unblocking streaming services including Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and more. Those seeking extra privacy and anonymity will find solace in NordVPN’s specialized servers, including double VPN, Tor over VPN, and anti-DDoS. Other servers are optimized for ultra-fast streaming. Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android. With up to six simultaneous devices on a single subscription, it’s one of the best values around.
VyprVPN owns and operates all of its own servers and data center equipment in more than 60 countries, meaning it can consistently guarantee low latency and unlimited bandwidth. The provider keeps no traffic logs, but torrenters might want to look elsewhere based on precedent. The company is incorporated in Switzerland but headquartered in Texas. A NAT firewall is built in and extra-cautions users can avail of the “Chameleon” protocol for added security. It was able to unblock everything we threw at it in our tests, including Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and HBO Now among others. Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android.
Hungary-based Buffered operates servers in 37 countries including Canada. This simple, straightforward VPN keeps no traffic logs. It can unblock most streaming channels including Netflix and Hulu in a web browser. Unfortunately, Buffered doesn’t have any mobile apps yet, so iOS and Android users will have to configure a third-party OpenVPN app. Connections are fast and rarely drop. A single subscription nets you five simultaneous devices, making Buffered a solid option for a home or small office.
SaferVPN stores no traffic logs but does record detailed metadata logs including the user’s source IP address. It claims to be able to unblock US Netflix, though we haven’t had an opportunity to test it ourselves as with the rest of the VPNs on this list. We did take notice of the extremely fast connection to Canadian servers in our review. The company is based in Israel. Note that torrenting is prohibited, but SaferVPN is still a solid option for Canadians who don’t torrent. Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, and certain wifi routers plus a Chrome extension that can be used as an HTTPS proxy.
Read our full review of SaferVPN or avail the discounted Winter Deal here.
VPNs to avoid in Canada
When it comes to free VPN services, TunnelBear is among the best. But because it’s incorporated in Canada, Canadians ought to avoid it. While the law is unclear as to whether VPN providers qualify as internet service providers, it’s best not to take a chance. The company could be forced to hand over customer data by law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Torrenting is also prohibited on TunnelBear servers.
SurfEasy and Opera VPN
For the same reason we can’t recommend TunnelBear, we also suggest Canadians avoid SurfEasy and Opera VPN. SurfEasy is based in Canada and thus possibly subject to government demands for user information. The Opera browser now comes with a built-in VPN that was created by SurfEasy. Furthermore, SurfEasy has not entirely transparent with us about its encryption standards.
Torrenting in Canada
Torrenting copyrighted material is illegal in Canada.
Under the Copyright Modernization Act, Canada utilizes a notice-and-notice system that primarily targets people who torrent copyrighted movies, TV shows, books, and music. The law requires ISPs send notices to copyright violators on their networks. The recipients’ identities are stored on ISP servers for six months.
Damages are capped at $5,000, however the policy is generally regarded as more educational than punitive.
Comparitech does not encourage or endorse copyright violation, but using a VPN will prevent ISPs and copyright trolls from monitoring P2P filesharing activity and tracing it back to you.
See also: The best torrenting VPN services for privacy, speed and use of use.
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