Interest in blockchain technologies in Canada is growing rapidly as new fintech startups and blockchain ventures are launched and governments indicate they are interested in the possibility of Canada becoming a global fintech/blockchain hub. Even the central Bank of Canada is getting in on the act conducting experiments with blockchain technology and digital currencies.
A recent AdvantageBC study said that Canada, particularly the western province of British Columbia, is well positioned with technical expertise and a vibrant fintech ecosystem to lead the world as a global fintech hub of excellence.
To recognize this growing interest, the Bitcoin Alliance of Canada has decided to broaden its mandate and change its name to Blockchain Association of Canada. The original Alliance was founded in 2013 by Anthony Di Iorio, who stepped down from his role in 2015.
“Our mandate is to educate, drive awareness and foster a dialogue between businesses, thought leaders and policy makers to ensure that Canada continues to be a leading nation for blockchain technology innovation,” Kyle Kemper, current executive director of the new Blockchain Association of Canada (BAC), told Bitcoin Magazine.
“There is an incredible, thriving scene here that keeps growing,” said BAC board member and Outlier Solutions CEO Amber D. Scott. “Most recently I've seen great interest and engagement from both the academic and regulatory communities. The discussions that are happening in those spaces are excellent, and likely to foster innovation in the long term.”
Ageesen Sri, director on the BAC board, noted: “Canada is a hotbed of talent, creativeness and grit and there are great things ahead for the country in this industry as long as the environment (both regulatory, financing and education) keeps pace with the innovations.”
Scott is a firm believer in the benefit of an organization like the BAC:
“I believe that it’s incredibly important that we as a community are willing to educate and advise policy makers (as well as listen to their concerns). Where we have the ability to work toward effective and well-written policy, we should be doing that.”
A New Vision
Considering the wide-reaching scope and disruptive potential of blockchain technology across so many sectors, from healthcare to the Internet of Things, the change in name from the Bitcoin Alliance to the Blockchain Association of Canada (BAC) seemed like a logical step.
“The space has grown to encapsulate much more than just Bitcoin, which for some time was the only blockchain of significance,” said Jason Cassidy, vice-chair of the BAC board of directors. “Bitcoin, being the largest blockchain, is still very much a part of our mandate. The BAC will continue to keep Bitcoin in focus and we see a bright future for it within our own country.”
“The idea of a movement from ‘Bitcoin’ to ‘blockchain’ on behalf of the BAC is not an abandonment of Bitcoin,” Scott said. “And as much as I love Bitcoin, the word itself does create certain barriers, like difficulty in opening a traditional bank account for the association.
“It’s a running joke at Outlier that when it comes to banking, Bitcoin is like Fight Club: the first rule is that you don’t talk about it.”
BAC board Chair Manie Eagar recognized the benefits an advocacy organization like the BAC can accomplish. During the recent board of directors election, Eagar said:
“There is still much work to do around merchant adoption, friendlier user experience, regulatory clarification, the opening of bank accounts for BTC startups and trading accounts around the world, closing the gap between innovation and regulatory roadblocks.”
Scott concurred: “It’s ludicrous that innovative Canadian businesses find themselves unable to access the Canadian banking system. If there’s one space in which I would love to see immediate government intervention, it would be here. Basic business banking should be entrenched as a right for legitimate organizations. We already have this right as individuals. I think that this alone would attract even more innovators to Canada.”
“This is the time to redouble our efforts and ensure that the fight is not just on the frontlines, but also where it really matters,” Eager added. “With people who can apply this for their personal benefit and in their daily lives.”
There was considerable interest in the recent Bitcoin Alliance of Canada elections, with highly qualified blockchain entrepreneurs and academics running for positions on the board of directors. Board members now represent a wide range of expertise in the space, from technical experts in blockchain technology and its applications to communications and government relations professionals.
The new BAC is planning a hackathon, educational workshops and a major conference in the early summer. It will be part of the exhibition at the upcoming Manning Centre Conference later this month in Ottawa.