CRTC Finally Approves Video Relay Service

News & Events

CRTC Finally Approves Video Relay Service

January 25, 2008

For four years, the Canadian Association of the Deaf and the Canadian Cultural Society of the Deaf have been fighting tirelessly to bring Video Relay Service (VRS) to Canada.

For the past year, we have been arguing for VRS in a public proceeding of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). This proceeding was trying to decide how the phone companies should spend millions of dollars in a funding pot known as the “deferral accounts”.

On January 17th, the CRTC finally announced its decision. You can find the full decision on their website here: : http://www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/archive/2008/dt2008-1.htm

Here’s what it means for us Deafies:
Bell Canada and Telus will each set up their own regional VRS. Telus will serve B.C. and Alberta. Bell will serve Ontario and Quebec.

If you don’t live in those provinces, the CRTC is saying “too bad for you!” CAD/CCSD argued and argued and argued with CRTC to set up a national VRS. We argued that it would be discriminatory and unfair to refuse VRS to people living outside of BC, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec. But the CRTC rejected our arguments and refused to support any use of the deferral account funds for national services.

CRTC also approved of plans for IP Relay service for B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Quebec. IP Relay (Internet Protocol Relay) is like standard old Message Relay Service, except it runs on the Internet and you can use a computer to connect to it instead of using a TTY.

IP Relay can start immediately. But neither Bell nor Telus has said when they will be ready to start offering VRS. Bell suggested they might start near the end of 2008.

We are all very happy that VRS is finally coming to Canada. But we are not very happy that it will not be a national VRS. We are angry that six provinces and three territories are not going to be getting VRS at all!

Please understand that we, the Deaf community, are not running VRS. We do not have any responsibility for VRS. We do not have the power to make Bell and Telus start their VRS services faster.

We will continue to do our best to pressure the phone companies to work with the Deaf community and to give us real jobs in helping to set-up and operate VRS. We will not be satisfied with invitations to sit on unpaid “advisory councils” that have no power to run VSR. We encourage Deaf Canadians not to accept “advisory council” positions themselves, and to demand that Bell and Telus hire bDeaf Canadians for paid positions in their VRS services.

Finally, we wish to thank all of you for your support of our long, long struggle for VRS, and for your patience in waiting for so many years until the CRTC and the phone companies finally agreed to set it up. What a battle it has been, eh!

Sincerely,

Sign Relay Canada – Service de Relais Canada
Canadian Association of the Deaf
Canadian Cultural Society of the Deaf