Opening remarks by Peter Menzies, Vice-Chairman, Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission
At the public hearing in Gatineau
October 21, 2013
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Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to this public hearing.
Over the years, the Commission has taken a number of steps to improve access to telecommunications services for Canadians with disabilities. As a result, Canadians who are deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired can make use of two text-based relay services, known as Internet Protocol relay and teletypewriter relay, to communicate by telephone.
During this hearing, we will examine whether a different service—known as video relay service—should be offered in Canada. Such a service would enable Canadians who are deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired to make or receive a video call using sign language. The video call would connect the sign-language user to an operator who is connected by telephone to the other party. The operator would then relay the conversation from sign language to spoken language, and vice versa.
In March 2013, we launched the current public proceeding to consider whether video relay service should be required in Canada and, if so, how this could best be accomplished.
Before deciding whether to require the provision of video relay service in Canada, the Commission must consider a number of questions. The hearing panel encourages parties to provide as many facts as possible when addressing these questions. This will allow us to make an informed, fact-based decision.
The questions we would like to discuss with the parties appearing before us this week include the following:
- What are the benefits of video relay service? To what extent, if any, does it meet the needs of people who are deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired better than the technologies currently available?
- Are the necessary interpreter resources available?
- What are the implications of video relay service for emergency calls and caller privacy?
- What costs are related to the implementation of video relay service?
- How could such a service best be administered and by whom?
The Commission welcomes your submissions on these and other related topics. We urge you to ensure that you not only provide your views, but also the necessary evidence to support them.
I would like to remind everyone that the Commission is an administrative tribunal, which does not provide funds to set up or administer a telecommunications service. Rather, funding for video relay service would come, ultimately, from providers and most likely subscribers of telecommunications services.
We must also keep in mind that the Commission receives its mandate to regulate and oversee the Canadian telecommunications system from the Telecommunications Act. The Act provides that the rates for telecommunications services shall be just and reasonable, and prohibits unjust discrimination in the provision or rate of a telecommunications service.
In addition, the Commission must exercise its powers with a view to implementing the objectives that are set out in the Act. Among others, these objectives include:
- facilitating the development of a system that safeguards, enriches and strengthens the social and economic fabric of Canada and its regions
- responding to the economic and social requirements of those who use telecommunications services
- stimulating research and development in Canada in the field of telecommunications services and encouraging innovation in the provision of telecommunications services, and
- ensuring that Canadians have access to high-quality, reliable and affordable services.
This sometimes requires us to balance competing objectives. The Commission must also follow the government’s policy direction, which requires it to rely on market forces to the greatest extent possible.
As we discuss video relay service over the coming week, we must consider the needs of Canadians who are deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired and the impact the possible introduction of such a service could have on the realization of the Telecommunications Act’s policy objectives and the policy direction the government issued to the Commission in 2006.
To ensure a full and meaningful participation, the CRTC published its notice of consultation in English, French, American Sign Language and Langue des signes québécoise. For the first time, Canadians had the option of submitting comments in sign language through the CRTC’s YouTube channel. Transcripts of these video submissions were made available on the public record for everyone to review.
In total, we received more than 3,000 comments in connection with this proceeding. We are very pleased with the engagement of Canadians and the contributions they have made to date. My fellow Commissioners and I look forward to their continued input during this hearing.
Simultaneous translation will be offered in English and French, as well as in American Sign Language and Langue des signes québécoise. Links to an audio feed and a video feed of the sign-language interpreters will be available throughout the hearing on our website. To facilitate the effectiveness of these interpretation services, all participants are asked to communicate clearly and at a speed that allows the interpreters to keep pace.
In response to requests from some parties appearing today, closed captioning services will be offered in English today.
Finally, I would like to remind all parties that if, at any time, the questions posed by the panel are unclear, they can – and should – seek clarification. If you require assistance during the hearing, our staff members in the hearing room and in the public examination room will be pleased to help you.
Let me now introduce the panel members:
- Elizabeth Duncan, Regional Commissioner for the Atlantic and Nunavut
- Tom Pentefountas, Vice-Chairman of Broadcasting
- Raj Shoan, Regional Commissioner for Ontario
- Stephen Simpson, Regional Commissioner for British Columbia and Yukon
- and myself, Peter Menzies, Vice-Chairman of Telecommunications. I will be presiding over this hearing.
The Commission team assisting us includes:
- Kay Saicheua, Hearing Manager and Manager of Social Policy
- Lori Pope and Daniel Finestone, Legal Counsel, and
- Jade Roy, Hearing Secretary and Public Hearings Supervisor.
I would now invite the Hearing Secretary, Jade Roy, to explain the procedures we will be following. Madam Secretary…
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