Open letter from the Canadian Association of the Deaf (CAD) to the CRTC regarding to the VRS in Canada
May 29, 2012
Leonard Katz, Acting Chairman
Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission
Les Terrasses de la Chaudière Central Building 1 Promenade du Portage Gatineau, Quebec J8X 4B1
We, Canadian Association of the Deaf, are writing an open letter to Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) regarding the announcement of May 25, 2012 about Video Relay Services in Canada.
Founded in 1940, the Canadian Association of the Deaf is the national information, research, and community action organization of Deaf people in Canada. We promote and protect the rights, needs, and concerns of those who are linguistically and culturally Deaf.
We are strongly opposed to the CRTC’s decision that more research must be done on Video Relay Service (VRS). Telus has submitted its report on a trial VRS that measures the number of people ready to use the service and how much it might cost. Bell Canada has submitted its incredibly-detailed report on the feasibility of VRS, how it might be funded and operated, and what the experiences have been in 13 other countries with VRS.
We understand the CRTC is concerned about “discrepancies” between these two reports and wants to see the discrepancies explained. But to go on and claim more research needs to be done, especially about what has happened in other countries, is absurd. It smacks of a delaying tactic and nothing more.
More than enough research has been done. Let Bell and Telus reconcile their different projections, and that is more than sufficient information upon which to base a decision.
We also fiercely object to your statement that “the vast majority” of consumers are satisfied with text relay services. Upon what evidence do you base that assumption? Absolutely no data or survey is cited to support it.
Concrete evidence from the United States (since you want more international information!) proves the exact opposite to what you allege. Between September 2006 and September 2010, the minutes of usage for VRS doubled from 4 million to 8 million. Over the same period, minutes of usage for text relay plummeted by two-thirds from 1.5 million to 0.5 million, and for IP relay by roughly 45% from 7 million to 4 million. Combined, the usage of all text-based relay services are only a little more than half the usage of VRS. Moreover, the usage of all text-based relay services continues to decline while that of VRS holds steady. “The vast majority”?
Mission Consulting, the neutral professional consultants who conducted the feasibility study for Bell Canada, projects over 7 million minutes in VRS calls in Canada at its peak. Does that sound like “a tiny minority”?
The Deaf community of Canada has been asking for VRS in this country for 8 years now. We have been patiently following the CRTC’s official procedure in the matter for 4 years. This is ridiculous. The CRTC decided on the truly fundamental and complicated shift away from monopoly-based phone service to a competition-based service in less than two years in the 1990s. How can you justify dragging out the far less earth-shattering introduction of VRS to Canada for more than twice as long a time? And what does that say about your commitment to the human rights and equality of accessibility of Deaf Canadians?
CRTC’s decision to further delay implementation of VRS has the effect of extending this country’s violation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Canada ratified the CRPD more than two years ago, rendering the Government of Canada and its federal institutions (including the CRTC) legally and morally bound to respect and implement the Convention. This applies to access to telecommunications services and technologies.
We urge the CRTC to move immediately to authorize the establishment of a permanent national VRS in Canada in both official spoken languages (English and French) and both Sign languages (ASL and LSQ). The Canadian Association of the Deaf stands ready to meet with the CRTC and with the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages and Minister of Industry to discuss this crucial issue.
Please contact us for a meeting before you make any final decisions regarding the future of Deaf Canadians.
CAD Vice President
The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada
The Honourable James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages
The Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of Industry
Colin Allen, President, World Federation of the Deaf
Chris Kenopic, President and CEO, Canadian Hearing Society
Christie Reaume, President, The Association Visual Sign Language Interpreters of Canada
Gilles Nole, President, Centre québécois de la déficience auditive
Jackie Plant, President, Ontario Association of the Deaf
To read this letter on the CAD website, click here