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Canada CRTC commissioner departs after more than a year of legal battles

A CRTC logo is shown in Montreal, Monday, September 10, 2012.

Graham Hughes/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Raj Shoan is no longer a commissioner at Canada's telecom and broadcast regulator after more than a year of legal battles that have revealed deep tensions at the commission.

The federal cabinet has issued an order in council that relates to Mr. Shoan, a spokesman for the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) confirmed on Thursday evening.

Mr. Shoan's CRTC e-mail address is not active anymore and a source with knowledge of the situation said he is no longer a commissioner. Reached late on Thursday, Mr. Shoan declined to comment on the order, but said he would issue a statement on Friday. The order had not been posted online as of Thursday night.

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Mr. Shoan has clashed with Jean-Pierre Blais, the chairman of the CRTC, on multiple occasions and their animosity has spilled into the courts, with Mr. Shoan filing three separate legal actions challenging the chair's authority and the commission's processes.

Documents filed in the cases have revealed unpleasant office politics and dysfunction at the federal regulator. Multiple commissioners and the chairman himself have referred to the working environment as "toxic" or "hostile," but disagree on who is to blame. The federal government appointed Mr. Shoan, 40, to a five-year term as commissioner for Ontario in 2013.

According to the rules for federal appointments, CRTC appointees can only be removed "for cause" by an order of the federal cabinet.

The CRTC is an arms-length federal body that has been at the centre of several high-profile decisions in recent years, including the moves to "unbundle" cable channels and introduce a national code governing wireless contracts.

Before the cabinet order, Mr. Shoan was one of eight commissioners, including the chairman. Commissioners at the regulator take part in public hearings and vote on policies and applications.

The order comes days after a public hearing on Tuesday in the Federal Court of Mr. Shoan's first case, which was launched in April, 2015. In that case, he is seeking judicial review of Mr. Blais's decision to accept the results of a third-party inquiry that concluded Mr. Shoan harassed a CRTC employee using e-mail.

On Tuesday, Federal Court Justice Russel Zinn commented that he found it "troubling" that Mr. Blais was a witness in a third-party investigation into the harassment allegations, suggesting it could appear biased since the chairman was also the one who ultimately accepted the finding of harassment.

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In two cases filed after that, Mr. Shoan has also argued that Mr. Blais, as CRTC chairman, does not have the legal authority to appoint panels of commissioners to preside over hearings on telecom-related matters. He argues that by appointing smaller panels to decide issues, the chairman is interfering with commissioners' independence by preventing them from voting on various matters.

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