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Fiscal Year 2021 Annual Report to Members

Delivering on our mission to promote a trusted internet for Canadians

A message from CIRA’s board chair:


The recently concluded fiscal year was a historic one in many ways. As Canadians struggled to endure the pandemic, they discovered that the internet was a lifeline for nearly every aspect of their lives, which only reinforced CIRA’s mission—to build a trusted internet for Canadians. 

FY21 was the first year of CIRA’s latest five-year strategic plan. It was satisfying to see the direction presented in that plan and approved by the board last year coming to life and having a tangible impact on the lives of Canadians. The board also is pleased that CIRA continues to be regarded as a leader in the global internet community and is a convenor of diverse perspectives, leveraging the multi-stakeholder approach that made the internet the cultural and economic phenomenon it is today.

CIRA’s original and enduring mandate is the stewardship of the .CA domain, a digital resource that proved to be critical to thousands of Canadian businesses across the country as they pivoted online due to the pandemic. .CA domain registrations soared in FY21, reaching a new milestone of three million .CA domain names registered. In a year in which top-level domains were in demand across the globe, .CA growth exceeded that of the global ccTLD average. The board understands the role that COVID and lockdowns played in this growth, but we also recognize the impact of increased marketing to remind Canadians of the advantages of .CA when they consider acquiring a domain name.

The board is also pleased to see the continued expansion of CIRA’s cybersecurity products and services aimed at protecting Canadians online, as well as DNS and registry products. Driven by the mass shift to work from home, many Canadian institutions were drawn to CIRA’s cybersecurity solutions due to the trust and goodwill the organization has generated in the Canadian market. With a goal of 25 per cent of CIRA revenue coming from non .CA products by 2025, the CIRA team is well on its way to this goal, generating $3.4M in FY21 which is just over 11% of total revenues.

Community investment is in many ways the heart of CIRA, giving back to the community helping grow the internet ecosystem in Canada. By the end of FY21, CIRA had invested $7.95 million back into the Canadian internet community, supporting 171 projects through its grants program. In FY21, an additional $1.1 million were invested in other initiatives to strengthen Canada’s internet, including our Canadian Internet Performance Test, and the launch of CIRA’s Canadian Shield. The Community Investment Program strategy was revised in FY20, and CIRA’s activities are now more closely aligned with CIRA’s core services through a focus on four priorities: community leadership, cybersecurity, digital literacy, and infrastructure. Additionally, as part of this new strategy, the board identified focused beneficiaries for the Community Investment Program grants, namely rural, northern and Indigenous communities as well as students.

FY21 was also marked by a renewed focus on the continued gaps in access to fast, reliable, ubiquitous internet access for all Canadians in many smaller communities. CIRA’s Internet Performance Test was used by rural, Indigenous, and remote communities across the country to make a case for expanded broadband access. The board supports CIRA’s efforts and advocacy on this important issue, as solving the internet divide is a critical issue for Canada’s future.

CIRA’s ability to execute effectively on these achievements would not be possible without the continued stress on diversity and inclusion, and employee engagement. CIRA continues to build the culture, processes, and brand to be recognized as a leading-edge, inclusive workplace that attracts and maintains top talent. CIRA has been recognized for the sixth year in a row as a top employer in the National Capital Region by Canada’s Top Employers, and a Best Employer for the second year in a row by Kincentric. The pandemic has created a massive shift in the workplace environment in Canada, and CIRA has navigated these challenging times by working hard to retain its culture, engage its employees and put in place the tools they need to be successful.

The board’s role is to ensure that the strategic direction is right and consistent with CIRA’s mandate and values, that oversight mechanisms are appropriate and that key performance indicators are in place to enable the organization to manage risk and assess its progress in meeting the goals. The board also reviews the CEO’s compensation, using independent third party benchmarking, and assesses performance based on annually established pay at risk targets.

Key performance indicators or success measures have been defined for all aspects of the strategic plan, and the continued stress on gross and operating margins, in addition to mission impact, emphasises the cost effectiveness of CIRA’s expenditures. This will help ensure the financial sustainability of the organization when domain name growth starts to fall, as many predict will be the case in the coming years.

The board’s role is to ensure an effective independent audit of the financial statements, and that CIRA is abiding by all applicable laws and regulations. We are pleased to see the strength of CIRA’s financial performance and the organization’s tenth successive year with a clean audit.

As board directors, we each must show the same care and concern to our board responsibilities as any prudent and ordinary person would, by preparing for and actively participating in board and committee meetings.  We engage in individual or group training and hire outside experts to assist us in fulfilling our roles. Our fiduciary duty requires us to place the interests of the organization ahead of our own interests, or the interests of staff, or any one set of stakeholders or electors, at all times. Directors must disclose any conflicts of interests and not use information and resources of the corporation for personal or commercial gain and self-interest.

We commit to adhere to a board-drafted code of conduct that spells out our roles and how we should operate individually and as a board. We value and promote integrity, accountability and transparency.  We value diversity of backgrounds, experiences and views, and I am pleased to see the board making progress by re-establishing a gender balance and improving our representativeness of the Canadian population.

Risk has also been a key focal point for the board in FY21. We reviewed and are updating our oversight of risk management, by articulating the kinds of risk-taking we think reasonable for the organization, for example in marketing .CA where take-up is weaker or in exploring opportunities for new cybersecurity services, versus where the organization should remain risk adverse, for example, in ensuring the safety and security of the registry and DNS infrastructures.  Board committees closely reviewed the risks they oversee, to ensure that these had been recently reviewed or were reflected in workplans.

The board, prompted in part by the AGM in 2020, examined the transparency of its and CIRA’s operations, and what could be improved. Outside consultants helped by looking at best practices for commercial non-profit organizations. Details of board director committee membership, attendance and remuneration were posted first for the calendar year. Board director expenditures for attendance at board meetings were added next, for calendar years 2020, and 2019 given how anomalous this last year was with very little travel as there was only one in-person board meeting. It is our intention to update these aspects of our operations every year on the CIRA website. We know that members appreciate these and related efforts to continuously improve our governance practices.

CIRA is well-positioned to sustain the momentum from the past year and continue its core mission of providing a safe, stable, and secure .CA domain space for Canadians. On behalf of the board, I would like to thank CIRA staff and management for their efforts and dedication.  In particular, I would like to express my confidence in and appreciation of the leadership provided by Byron Holland, the President and CEO. This is my last year as chair of CIRA’s board. As I look back on my six years on the board, I am proud of the role we played in helping CIRA to be successful. I wish the board and my successor smooth sailing, and I look forward to seeing CIRA’s strategic plan continue to unfold in the coming years.


Helen McDonald
Chair, CIRA, Board of Directors 

Success requires innovation, hard work, and thoughtful strategy

A message from CIRA’s president and CEO:


What a year. When FY21 started, the global pandemic had just begun; there was uncertainty, fear, and real questions about whether the internet was ready to handle the pressure to become the lifeboat for our society.

A little more than a year later, there’s cautious optimism on the horizon.  We’ve learned some valuable lessons about our society, and in many ways have reinforced what we have known all along—the internet is a critical resource for our country.

FY21 was a year where the planning, operational excellence, and strategic direction that CIRA has been putting in place for the past few years allowed the organization to not only withstand the storm of the pandemic but take advantage of the opportunities it presented. Overnight, virtually everything CIRA does, builds, or advocates for became among the most critical resources and issues for our country as Canadians began working, learning, teaching, and socializing online by the millions.

Everything flows back to CIRA’s FY21-FY25 strategic plan, which was developed using the multi-stakeholder model that has served the internet so well since its inception. Built in consultation with a wide range of staff, board members, registrars, and, of course, our members, the strategic plan is CIRA’s roadmap to deliver on our goal, a trusted internet for Canadians, and identifies four key pillars of the organization—.CA stewardship, product expansion, community investment and organizational enablement.

But a plan is only part of the equation. Success lies in transforming plans into execution. And here, too, CIRA shone in FY21. With oversight from our diverse and expert board, CIRA’s FY21 operational plan was instrumental to the successful year we had, with staff and stakeholders working together to support Canadians online.

That’s not to say that there haven’t been challenges for CIRA in the past year. Like everyone else, we’ve had to adapt how we work – not just within our virtual walls, but also how we work with our external partners and stakeholders. For an organization focused on digital Canada, we’ve come to realize how much of our business is actually human, face-to-face, and in-person: from our work on global internet governance, to speaking at conferences, to business development meetings. We may have pivoted, but we are looking forward to a return to some normalcy in these areas.

Being the stewards of the .CA domain name put us in the position of managing one of the hottest commodities over the past year as thousands of Canadian small businesses pivoted online to adapt to pandemic lockdowns and react to Canadians’ increased demand for e-commerce and digital services. This increased demand led to the most successful year for .CA registrations in CIRA’s history as we surpassed three million domains under management.

However, I would only be telling half the story if I didn’t acknowledge the tremendous amount of work and planning put in place by the CIRA team to position .CA as the domain of choice for Canadians. FY21 was the second year of the Domain Squad multi-channel advertising campaign, which saw the squad regroup at their forest headquarters to promote the value of .CA domains for Canadian businesses. The centrepiece of this campaign was four 15-second commercials featured on broadcast TV, digital TV, YouTube, and social media throughout the year, which continued the bold, humorous, and provocative tone needed to break through in a crowded media environment.

Recognizing the difficulty some small businesses faced in pivoting quickly online to endure pandemic lockdowns, CIRA also partnered with Digital Main Street to provide 3000 .CA domains to its ShopHERE program, which supports entrepreneurs, artists and makers who are moving online for the first time.

One of the side effects of having Canada’s entire economy and society move online overnight is that it creates a lot of opportunities for cyber thieves. A trusted internet for Canadians means not having your network locked up by a ransomware attack or your personal data leaked to the dark web. CIRA recognized years ago that our global DNS footprint and internal security expertise put us in an ideal position to protect Canadians online. Fast forward to today, and now more than three million Canadians across schools, hospitals, municipalities, businesses, and households are now protected by CIRA cybersecurity products.  

Similarly, our expertise in running the .CA registry has opened up opportunities to assist other domain registries in providing their back-end infrastructure. The CIRA Registry Platform completed the onboarding of .IE, the country code of Ireland, and welcomed our friends from New Zealand, .NZ, to the family this year. We continue to pursue expansion in the TLD space and are working toward creating a community of like-minded registries to reinvent the way domains are managed. With a goal to hit 25 per cent of CIRA’s overall revenue by FY25, our product expansion strategy is already well on its way to success.

Investing in our community is, in many ways, the heart of CIRA. Since 2014, CIRA has invested $7.95 million through our grants program to support projects, academics and community groups working to improve Canada’s internet. That work came into sharp focus this year as the rural-urban digital divide became a key issue in the media, the halls of government, and most importantly, for the thousands of rural, Indigenous, and remote communities who require quality internet access to participate fully in the digital economy. CIRA was proud to support this initiative through our Internet Performance Test, which was leveraged by many groups, communities and governments to identify gaps in broadband coverage and advocate for more investment in infrastructure.

Our commitment to a better internet community also extends to the “real” world, and the environment we live in.  In FY21, CIRA developed its first ever environmental sustainability strategy. The first step was to evaluate CIRA’s current greenhouse gas emissions, which are largely grouped in three areas: employee commuting, business travel as a result of CIRA’s participation in global internet governance and technical fora, and operations (such as emissions from data centres around the globe). Through FY22, CIRA will set targets for carbon reduction, and will begin implementing changes within its corporate processes to achieve them.

Finally, while the pandemic provided a lift to many of CIRA’s activities, our success was more than just timing; it came due to the hard work, planning, and innovation of our people. Working under trying circumstances, CIRA staff demonstrated the resilience, poise, ingenuity and drive that helped the organization make the most of this unprecedented time.

A key element of our success was the culture CIRA has been intentional in building and worked hard to maintain in a remote environment. We were pleased once again to be named a Best Employer in Canada by Kincentric, as well as a top employer in the National Capital Region by Canada’s Top Employers. In short, our people are the core of our culture, and even though we were not together in person for FY21, that culture continues to thrive.

With FY21 now behind us, I’d encourage everyone who makes CIRA what it is – our staff, our members, our volunteers – to take a second and reflect on all that we accomplished over the past fiscal year.

 I would also like to thank the members of CIRA’s board, particularly our chair, Helen McDonald, for her support and leadership. The board places a lot of effort into ensuring that CIRA is governed with sufficient oversight and the right tools in place to make sure we’re delivering on our strategic objectives.

As I write this FY21 review, FY22 is well under way. While many of our FY21 successes continue, we must also stand by to pivot again, adjust to the new realities coming to being as the world emerges from the worst of the pandemic. We are seeing signs of economic uncertainty and as we predicted, less registrations of .CA domains. While we may have more hope than we did in April 2020, we – like everyone else – are also a little battle weary. As we continue to face significant uncertainty about the road to a post-pandemic world, CIRA will need to remain vigilant and be ready to continue adapt to these new realities in order to continue enabling a trusted internet for Canadians.

I look forward to sharing more about what lies ahead for the organization at our annual general meeting in September.


Byron Holland

President and CEO, CIRA

Operate: delivering on our core mission

.CA Performance in FY21

As Canadian businesses scrambled to pivot online due to the pandemic, they reached overwhelmingly for the domain name that would resonate best with their local customers—.CA. CIRA managed to achieve a growth rate of 8.3% – while the top 30 country code top-level domain (ccTLD) operators grew by 4.9%. At the close of FY21 there were 3.1 million .CA domains under management. 

Marketing activities

In FY21, the Domain Squad headed for the comfort of their forest headquarters to help Canadian businesses make the right choice of domain name for their business. The centerpiece of this campaign was four, 15-second commercials fetured on broadcast TV, digital TV, YouTube, and social media throughout the year. 

.CA also helped nearly 3000 small Canadian businesses pivot online during the pandemic through its participation in the Digital Main Street ShopHERE program




Innovate: creating new opportunities

Cybersecurity Services

CIRA continues to develop new cybersecurity technologies and services by leveraging its DNS knowledge, technical expertise and global infrastructure.  


3.1+ million

Users protected by CIRA

CIRA DNS Firewall

CIRA DNS Firewall is a cloud-based cybersecurity solution that protects organizations from malware, ransomware, phishing, and other cyberattacks.  

Organizations are recognizing the extra defense it provides to their existing technologies as it continues to show rapid adoption across the country. 


Malware blocks

monthly average in 2021 


Phishing blocks

monthly average in 2021


Botnet blocks

monthly average in 2021


Content blocks

monthly average in 2021

Protected by CIRA DNS Firewall:


K-12 schools




Healthcare institutions


Universities and research networks

DNS Firewall users:

3.1 million

 Active Firewall users 


 New Firewall customers

CIRA Canadian Shield

CIRA Canadian Shield is a free cybersecurity service that improves privacy by anonymizing DNS queries. It’s built by Canadians, exclusively for Canadian households, to block viruses, ransomware, and other malware. 




86 million

Blocks last month

Mozilla Partnership

CIRA Canadian Shield is now the default DNS over HTTPS provider for Firefox users in Canada. 

CIRA Cybersecurity Awareness Training

CIRA Cybersecurity Awareness Training is an integrated courseware and phishing simulation platform that enables organizations to educate their staff to protect themselves from cyber risks like social engineering and ransomware.  

Launched in FY20, this service has seen quick adoption as organizations across Canada recognize that the first line of defense against hackers is a cyber-savvy workforce. 




Employees protected


Municipalities and government


K-12 schools


Universities and research networks


Small businesses


Healthcare institutions


Enterprise customers

DNS and Registry Services

CIRA continues to leverage its registry and DNS expertise to help organizations around the world manage and protect their domains.

CIRA Anycast DNS

CIRA Anycast DNS offers world-class global authoritative DNS infrastructure to help organizations keep their websites and domains safe, resilient, and high performing. A second version of this service, called CIRA TLD Anycast, is provided to registries around the world and is used by 11% of the world’s country-code top level domains.  


CIRA Anycast DNS queries per hour

The CIRA Registry Platform

The CIRA Registry Platform continued to grow through FY21 by onboarding the .IE ccTLD, winning new customers  (.NZ  and .ECO), and passing the rigorous testing to become a certified ICANN Emergency Back-end Registry Operator (EBERO) provider.

TLDs supported by CIRA


3.5 million

Domains under management by CIRA Registry Platform 

Donate: investing in Canada’s internet

CIRA’s Community Investment Program granting initiative gives back to the Canadian internet by funding innovative community projects to build a stronger, safer and more accessible internet for all Canadians. 


Invested since 2014 by end of FY21


Projects funded by end of FY21

Community story: bringing high speed internet to Indigenous communities northern Ontario 

reBOOT Canada worked with local Indigenous and rural youth in five small communities in Ontario to train them to set up and operate free wi-fi hotspots. 


CIRA Labs is an innovation hub that develops new solutions that can help build a secure, trusted, and accessible internet for Canadians both domestically and abroad. We research and develop new technologies that help increase the security and resilience of the internet; mitigate and respond to cyber-attacks; and support new network, data, and security standards around the world.   

FY21 was a big year for CIRA Secure IoT Registry— a secure, zero-touch device identity management for enterprise IoT deployments—as it was featured as part of the TELUS L-SPARK Medtech Accelerator which aims to promote IoT innovation in Canada’s medical technology sector.

Internet Performance Test

As the pandemic gripped Canada, the importance of fast, resilient ubiquitous high-speed internet became crystal clear. CIRA’s Internet Performance Test (IPT) is one of the most advanced tests of internet speed and quality available and helps rural indigenous and remote communities across Canada measure their internet quality and advocate for better access.  


IPT tests conducted in FY21


Lifetime IPT tests conducted  

Rural internet gap

The average rural internet speed is 5 to 10x slower than in urban environments. 

Internet Exchange Points

CIRA continued its investment in Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) by supporting the growth and governance of individual IXPs.  

IXPs play a critical role in improving the resiliency, redundancy and independence of Canada’s internet. 

Organizational foundation: a CIRA built to succeed

For six consecutive years CIRA has been named a top employer in the National Capital Region by Canada’s Top Employers. 

CIRA is the silver medal winner of the Canadian HR Awards’ Best Employer Branding. 




Training hours

CIRA Membership




Annual member satisfaction score 


of CIRA members actively participating in CIRA governance

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For more information please see our audited financials.