Raj Shoan, an outspoken former CRTC commissioner, heads back to court Monday to appeal his dismissal from the commission in 2017, and to demand a declaration that the federal cabinet should have investigated allegations of racism he put forward while he worked at the regulator.
Mr. Shoan’s appeal of his second termination from his post as Ontario regional commissioner for the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is part of a long legal battle relating to his time working there. Included in Mr. Shoan’s court documents are allegations that a colleague referred to him as a “spoiled, rich brown kid” and made other racially insensitive comments.
The case will be heard virtually by the Federal Court of Appeal. A spokesperson for the Privy Council Office declined to comment on the matter, as it is before the courts.
The legal saga, which involves multiple court battles spanning several years, thrust internal conflict at the commission into public view and revealed long-simmering tensions between the regional commissioner and then CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais.
The feud between Mr. Shoan and Mr. Blais first came to light in 2015, when Mr. Shoan launched a legal action seeking judicial review of a finding that he had harassed a CRTC employee through a series of e-mails.
A federal court later tossed out the workplace harassment complaint against Mr. Shoan, finding the investigators on the case had approached it with a “closed mind” and criticizing Mr. Blais for playing a dual role as a witness and a decision maker. Mr. Blais and a spokesperson for the CRTC both declined to comment for this story.
Mr. Shoan, a lawyer who previously served as director of regulatory affairs at the CBC, was dismissed from the CRTC in June, 2016, amid multiple legal actions that he had filed regarding the regulator. Mr. Shoan, who was appointed to the CRTC in 2013, has repeatedly objected to what he has characterized as Mr. Blais overstepping his powers as CRTC chairman.
Mr. Shoan sought a judicial review of his dismissal by the federal cabinet and won. In April, 2017, Federal Court Justice Cecily Strickland quashed the cabinet decision that dismissed Mr. Shoan, stating it lacked procedural fairness, but noted in her ruling that the relationship between Mr. Shoan and Mr. Blais was “fraught.”
Mr. Shoan’s reinstatement as a CRTC commissioner was short-lived. In May, 2017, just days after he had returned to his post, the federal cabinet again revoked his appointment.
Mr. Shoan challenged the decision in court, but lost. On May 7, 2018, a Federal Court judge dismissed Mr. Shoan’s application for judicial review, stating that the cabinet decision had appropriate procedural fairness. Mr. Shoan is now appealing that ruling.
The Attorney-General of Canada says in court filings that the appeal should be dismissed because the cabinet “clearly communicated” to Mr. Shoan the grounds for his firing: his inappropriate contact with stakeholders, his failure to follow internal CRTC processes with respect to access to information requests and his negative public statements about the regulator. Cabinet felt Mr. Shoan’s actions were “fundamentally incompatible with his position,” according to court documents.
On Monday, the court will hear Mr. Shoan’s appeal as well as a motion he filed on Oct. 9 to add new evidence to the record. Mr. Shoan claims in court filings that this new evidence challenges the assertions that he engaged in inappropriate stakeholder conduct and demonstrates that he received differential treatment. The Attorney-General of Canada counters in its filings that the new evidence is not relevant and that Mr. Shoan did not bring it forward in a timely fashion.
Mr. Shoan also says in his court filings that during his time as a CRTC commissioner, he repeatedly tried to raise concerns relating to alleged bigotry, discrimination and differential treatment.
In a June 14, 2016 letter to then Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly, Mr. Shoan specifically requested that the minister investigate “racially charged conduct” occurring at the commission, according to court documents.
“I informed the Minister that CRTC employees had informed me of racially insensitive remarks made by a fellow Commissioner and that they feared reprisal from the CRTC Chairperson and other members of CRTC staff if they brought the matter to them,” Mr. Shoan said in an affidavit filed on Oct. 9.
“Specifically, the information brought to my attention alleged that my colleague had referred to me as a ‘spoiled, rich brown kid,' complained that her office ‘smelled of curry’ after certain Indo-Canadian stakeholders had visited and requested a change of hotels on one occasions because there were ‘too many black people’ there. The Chairperson, it appeared, had taken no action against that colleague," the court document reads.
The Attorney-General says the appeal is the first time Mr. Shoan has raised issues relating to racism, bigotry and differential treatment, according to court documents.
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