On 28 November 1995, I conducted a press conference with my legal counsel Christopher Leafloor and MP Dan McTeague in the Charles-Lynch Room on Parliament Hill. At that time, we informed journalists that a complaint had been filed that same day to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, under the name Cable Watch Citizens’ Association. The complaint requested the refund of approximately $100 million to ordinary citizens from several powerful media companies.
The Cable Watch complaint made several allegations, including that the CRTC had acted unlawfully by enacting subsection 18(6.3) of the Cable Television Regulations, 1986, and that the statutory monopoly cable companies had acted unlawfully by collected the 18(6.3) fees from more than 6 million Canadians without notifying the ratepayers about 18(6.3), its beneficiaries, and the subordinate law’s monthly cost to them.
Rogers Communications Inc was the largest beneficiary of the 18(6.3) company subsidy scheme, a corporation that was under the control at that time of billionaire Ted Rogers (1933 – 2008); who was sometimes referred to as Canada’s Rupert Murdoch.
Unfortunately, Canadian media companies did not effectively inform the public of the 18(6.3) matter involving the financial interests of Canadian media companies and the legal, financial, and democratic rights of citizens.
Officials at the CRTC, which is a quasi-judicial regulatory tribunal acting at arms length from Parliament, decided not to resolve this matter in the public domain. The officials, who had been appointed by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, opted not to notify the millions of 18(6.3) ratepayers about this issue or permit Canadians an opportunity to represent their interests in this matter.
The only public interest party permitted by the CRTC to participate was Cable Watch; which was basically me, supported by pro bono legal service.
Sixteen years ago today, the CRTC confirmed in a letter to Mr Leafloor that it had determined that neither the corporations or the CRTC had acted unlawfully, and that consumers were not entitled to rate refunds.
In other words, the CRTC ruled that monopoly cable companies had the legal right to collect the 18(6.3) fees from Canadians, but Canadians were not entitled to notice from the corporations that they were paying the 18(6.3) fees.
Furthermore, the CRTC 18(6.3) decision was never published. Consequently, the public remain unaware of the unpublished CRTC decision or its present implications respecting their legal, financial and democratic rights.
Given the dishonest and manipulative tactics that I had encountered by CRTC officials during this matter, I expected such an outcome. It had been my plan to challenge the CRTC decision in the Federal Court of Appeal.
However, 16 years ago today I was in no shape to take on Canada’s federal regulator and some of the country’s most powerful media proprietors in a legal battle.
My mental health significantly deteriorated in the months before the CRTC’s unpublished decision; while I was working with my legal counsel on both the Cable Watch submission to the CRTC, as well as preparing for the anticipated legal fight against the CRTC and media companies. By May 1996, I was in a severe depression and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Everything seemed totally hopeless and I came extremely close to ending my life.
I tried to return to finish my campaign too soon and experienced a life-changing episode of psychosis. My life was shattered, but I survived.
E.C. Warner’s short film for the 2006 Hope Awards documents my experience and intention to return to this ongoing Canadian scandal (The Naked Adocate).
Last year, I shared some parts of my story to an audience at The Canberra Theatre (Now Hear This).
After all of these years, and all of the ups and downs of life in that time, I still have the original unpublished CRTC decision in my possession.
A copy of the unpublished CRTC decision was included as Appendix A to my 2007 CRTC submission (Profiteering in the Name of Culture).
As a result, it is presently available for viewing on CRTC public file.