Raj Shoan, a former commissioner at Canada's broadcast and telecom regulator, has initiated another legal action against the federal government, this time challenging the order that terminated him from his post last month.
Filed late Tuesday, the court documents urge the Federal Court to quash the June 23 governor-in-council order that made Mr. Shoan's termination official.
His dismissal from his role as regional commissioner for Ontario at the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) came three years into his five-year term – and just two days after Mr. Shoan's first of four legal proceedings was heard in court. All four filings allege deep tensions and dysfunction at the highest levels of leadership at the CRTC.
In his initial case, filed in April, 2015, Mr. Shoan is seeking a judicial review of Chairman Jean-Pierre Blais's decision to accept the results of a third-party inquiry that found Mr. Shoan had harassed a CRTC employee through e-mail. Justice Russel Zinn, a trial judge in the Federal Court, has said that he intends to issue a ruling before September.
The basis of Mr. Shoan's latest application for judicial review stems from the federal government's decision to revoke his appointment before Justice Zinn's verdict has been made. Mr. Shoan is asking the court to order a stay until at least 10 days after a ruling is made in the harassment case and the time to appeal expires.
The removal of a governor-in-council appointee is rare. The rules for federal appointments state that commissioners of the CRTC are hired "during good behaviour" and "may only be removed for cause" by an order from the federal cabinet. Before his dismissal, Mr. Shoan had been one of eight commissioners, including the chairman.
In his submission to Federal Court, Mr. Shoan says that the order to terminate him was issued prematurely. The "decision is an improper collateral attack on a judicial proceeding in this court," he claimed.
The contents of Mr. Shoan's latest legal filing show the events that preceded his removal, and include copies of written exchanges with Minister of Canadian Heritage Mélanie Joly and her office.
The documents reveal the concerns that Ms. Joly had about Mr. Shoan, and also show that Ms. Joly's predecessor, Shelly Glover, had recommended last July that Mr. Blais initiate a workplace assessment to address what could be "contributing to a toxic work environment within the organization." Mr. Shoan claims this assessment was never completed.
In an exchange with Ms. Joly in mid-June, Mr. Shoan makes reference to a separate formal workplace harassment complaint that he believes was brought against another commissioner last fall, involving allegations of discriminatory remarks. Mr. Shoan says that this complaint was handled differently than his internally. He also claims that his decision to bring this issue to Ms. Joly's attention could have led to his dismissal.
CRTC spokeswoman Patricia Valladao referred a request for comment to the Ministry of Heritage. Tim Warmington, a spokesman for Heritage, declined to comment on a matter before the courts.
On Feb. 26, Ms. Joly wrote to Mr. Shoan "to express my concerns about your capacity to serve as a commissioner." By then, close to four months had passed since Ms. Joly had been named Minister of Canadian Heritage. (The CRTC reports to Parliament through Heritage.) Details about the workplace harassment case against Mr. Shoan had already spilled into the courts and press almost a year ago.
"I am concerned that your behaviour not only disparages the work of the chair but affects the integrity of the commission, including its staff," Ms. Joly wrote in her four-page letter, which alleges indiscretions ranging from the content of Mr. Shoan's Twitter account to how his alleged actions and objections affect the internal operations of the CRTC.
In the letter included in Mr. Shoan's filing, Ms. Joly raised four key issues with his conduct:
- Mr. Shoan’s use of his Twitter account to publicize his personal statements related to two of his applications for judicial review, which Ms. Joly said were “too critical” of the CRTC and its chair, and led to negative media attention. (She wrote that her predecessor also took issue with Mr. Shoan’s use of social media, “particularly the degree to which your actions prejudice the ongoing operation, credibility and reputation of the CRTC.")
- The release of confidential information in these judicial reviews, which she says infringe on solicitor-client privilege and have led to a complaint under the Privacy Act against the CRTC.
- A pair of meetings Mr. Shoan took last summer with stakeholders whose applications were before the CRTC, raising “concerns about perceptions of fairness and neutrality.”
- How his actions and objections affect the internal operations of the CRTC.
"It is of particular concern that your conduct continues to show a lack of respect for the principles of collegiality, that you have publicly disparaged the CRTC including the manner in which the chairperson exercises his authority, and that you continue to challenge senior staff whose advice and views support those of the chairperson."
Ms. Joly asked that Mr. Shoan respond to her concerns by March 14, which he did through his lawyer, Craig Stehr, in an 11-page letter.
Unlike Mr. Shoan's three previous applications for judicial review, which have focused on the authority of Mr. Blais and the internal workings and governance structure of the CRTC, this filing heavily focuses on Mr. Shoan's dealings with Ms. Joly.
"[Ms. Joly] clearly was operating under the mistaken belief that every action I had taken was designed to impugn the CRTC rather than in defence of it," Mr. Shoan says in his application to the court. "It was apparent she had already concluded the inquiry and was asking for reasons not to terminate my appointment."
Mr. Shoan's second application for judicial review will be heard on Oct. 24.