Sorenson’s Impact on Canada : Carrot and Stick Experiment (Part 4)

All,

This is the fourth blog entry of 5-blog series about Sorenson Communications, Inc’s impact on Canada.

It is my responsibility as a Deaf American Citizen to share this information based on facts, reliable sources and supporting evidence to you. Then you can get involved to make things right with FCC and our Deaf Canadian citizens.

Now, you have read the previous blog about Sorenson’s fight having call centers located in Canada.

You may wonder to ask what is Canada’s involvement with VRS? Why cannot they have their own VRS? There are technology available, and why they are so behind?

First of all, we cannot compare our VRS industry and government structure with Canada. We are two completely different countries. It comes with different names too. I am presenting the chart that will help you to keep track with all kinds of abbreviations.

Let me first explain about CRTC, which is similar to Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the biggest difference is that FCC gets money for the TRS Fund.

FCC gives certifications to VRS providers to run their business, and regulates the VRS Industry.

CRTC have deferred funds from telephone companies. CRTC does not have TRS-like funds. CRTC does certify. To learn more about CRTC, here’s the image below that will take you to their website.

Deaf Canadians ‘heard’ about United States’ video relay services and that started in 2004. Canadian Association of the Deaf (CAD) collected information about VRS to present to the 2005 conference that was hosted by the Alberta Association of the Deaf as a part of the celebation of CAD’s 65th Anniversary. The conference was held in July of 2005.

Meanwhile, Sorenson started to proliferate…

At the CAD’s 2005 Conference, CAD came up with the best approach with three steps.

  1. Form a corporation responsible for bringing VRS to Canada.
  2. The new corporation should hold a “call for proposals” to establish VRS in Canada.
  3. The new corporation would work with the winner of the call for proposals to ask CRTC how w would bring VRS to Canada.

Please click this PDF file that will allow you to read a brief history of the fight for VRS in Canada.  It will be downloaded as PDF file.

BRIEF_SUMMARY_HISTORY_OF_THE_FIGHT_FOR_VRS_IN_CANADA

In 2007, Sorenson established call centers in Canada. These call centers are for Deaf Americans. Deaf Canadians were getting very angry for a slow response from CRTC until they made two important rulings in 2009-2010.

CRTC ruled that only existing telecom service providers would be eligible for funding to set-up VRS in Canada.

CRTC ordered Bell to do a trial VRS in Ontario and Quebec, and Telus to do a trial VRS in BC and Alberta.

The first ruling meant Sign Relay Canada (new coporation that was formally approved by the federal government) could never become a funded VRS provider. Only telecoms like Bell, Telus, Rogers, etc. could become VRS providers.

In response to the second ruling, Bell decided a trial would not be able to gather the information needed to plan for a sustainable (permanent) VRS. Bell asked the CRTC for permission to do a comprehensive feasibility study instead of doing a trial. CRTC approved.

The feasibility study began in early 2011 and will be completed in late February 2012.

Telus partnered with Sorensen to do its trial VRS in BC and Alberta. This trial has been extended at least once. It is due to end January 15th. Deaf consumers need to understand this trial was funded entirely out of Telus’ own deferral account money. That money is limited and it cannot be increased; Telus *must* spend all deferral account money and no new money can be put into that account. This is why Telus is saying it cannot afford to extend the VRS trial past January 15th. Telus pay Sorenson for 16 months of service. It means that Telus used Sorenson’s call centers.

Did FCC know that?

After January 15th, which is tomorrow. Sorenson continue using their call centers to provide service to Deaf Americans. Not Deaf Canadians in British Columbia and Alberta.

That is definitely a carrot and stick experiment!

I feel disgusted by Sorenson. I don’t care if Sorenson are doing this to help Deaf Canadians. I don’t understand why Telus partnered with Sorenson. Telus is located in British Columbia and that is close to Sorenson’s Vancouver, BC’s call center.

Did Sorenson jump into the opportunity because they already have resources and staff ready to do this kind of ‘experiment’? How much minutes did Sorenson earn during 16-months? How much did Sorenson bill Telus? Why did Sorenson complain to us that they will go bankruptcy if FCC cut TRS rates? What is Sorenson’s motive?

Now, Deaf Canadians, especially from British Columbia and Alberta are rallying to have Video Relay Services. They didn’t know the magnitude of Sorenson’s involvement. They are outraged right now.

They are mobilizing themselves by setting up Facebook’s page, called Canada VRS Rally. It has over 2,000 members, and they desperately need help. Go to Facebook page now and offer some support to them.

My next and last blog entry is about FCC Accountability, and how can WE as Deaf Americans need to be MORE involved with FCC’s regulatory process. We are guilty for not being vigilant. Sorenson is laughing to the bank right now, and we are partially responsible for Canada’s problem because of our demand of using VRS services in a timely matter.

FCC has released a 109-page proposed rule making document on December 15, 2011 and we have 30 days to respond to this. Sean Gerlis is currently producing 12-vlog series of ASL adaption of FCC 109-page document. Also, every American is now getting frustrated with corporations, and they started to do the political movement to confront corporations of their greed. They occupied Wall Street in protest. Occupy Wall Street started.

It is time to

Occupy Sorenson.

 

This business practice must stop. We are collectivist beings, and we must care for our neighbor, Deaf Canadians who desperately need their video relay service. That is their right.

It is horrible that they had VRS services for 16 months, and all of the sudden, tomorrow… it will be gone.

Sorenson continue doing their business as usual… go and check my fifth blog.

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20 comments on “Sorenson’s Impact on Canada : Carrot and Stick Experiment (Part 4)

I really feel your points are one sided and you’re not getting all of the information. Firstly, Telus was to provide VRS service in Canada. You’re right there was only limited funds to provide the service. If Canada set up their own VRS service someone would hve had to come up with the technology, equipment, etc, etc. That would have been very costly. So costly in fact that the Deaf community may not have had any taste of VRS, Telus contracted Sorenson. Sorenson has the equipment, the technology, and the staff to provide the service. You’re taking it out on the wrong people. The Deaf community needs to fight the government, get legislation so that VRS service has to be offered. Why not Sorenson? Does it really matter? Walmart, Starbucks and soon Target are in Canada. We all shop at those stores. There are Canadian companies in the USA employing US residents. Why does that matter? Yes, that’s all due to Free Trade….it benefits all 3 countries. If the CRTC decides to continue VRS service in Canada and Sorenson is one of the companies that can offer the service….why not? Deaf Canadians would have the service immediately. Do they want to wait another 5-10 years before someone develops a Canadian Company? I was at the Rally in Vancouver and my understanding is that they want it NOW!! Maybe our Deaf community needs to realize that Sorenson isn’t all bad….they are the largest employer of Deaf people. If provide Canadian service then they would have to hire CANADIAN tech support, installers, etc. This would create jobs for Deaf Canadians. Maybe you need to look at the bigger picture. You’re looking in the wrong direction. This is about Canadian Deaf getting VRS service….so focus on that…not by alienating your Interpreters.

Wow… Did you realize that it was our money to the TRS fund to pay Canadian interpreters to provide VRS services to Deaf Americans only, thus siphoning Canada with their small pool of interpreters away from Deaf Canadians? We, Deaf Americans did not realize the devastating effects which Sorenson has on Canada. It is our responsibility to watch after Sorenson’s business practices that is so against our community’s collectivist values. I don’t see how Sorenson is helping Deaf Canadians since they have been sidesourcing to meet the demands of Deaf Americans. I do want Deaf Canadians to have their VRS and they deserve much more with a better VRS company who is responsive and respectful. Sorry to say, Sorenson is not the company I would recommend at all.

Sorenson is the largest employer for Deaf people? Rolling on the floor laughing! Check facts first. They employs Deaf people in entry to mid-level jobs, and one top administrative position. Other VRS companies do have a better track record. Deaf Canada deserves better.

There is so much bias, statements lacking any true evidence, claims that don’t mean anything. There is so much emotion involved in this blog which steers us away from the real purpose. Canada would not have a trial project without Sorenson. Let’s just say that CRTC grants Canadians VRS, we should be thankful that Sorenson was available to provide the infrastructure and means to carry out the project. This notion that the US steals Canadian interpreters is flawed. The NAFTA is not a ‘loophole’. It’s a ‘free trade’. It’s not a loophole, which is the word you used to give a false analogy to the NAFTA being a mistake in the first place. Because it is not. Perhaps trying to understand what the NAFTA really is about might help you have a better appreciation for it.

Of course, only telecom companies could provide the service. It’s much more cost-effective to have an existing telecom company to take on a trial project. Besides it’s the tele-com companies that have the deferred money. Telus took on this project because they had left-over funding from their deferred account for accessibility issues. So it makes sense that for ease of carrying out a trial project is to do it with existing infrastructure.

I think people are forgetting that it was a trial project. It was a ‘test project’ to see how it works in Canada because the USA is very different. That’s the reason why it’s only 15 months long. Everyone knew that it was going to come to an end. You shouldn’t act surprised, yet everyone acts as if they were lied to. It didn’t come to a a stop ‘all of a sudden’. You are using words that misrepresent what is happening. These kinds of words are what sends people into a fury of misunderstanding and confusion over something that Canadians knew was coming to an end at the end of the trial.

The US has a different government, different economy, different laws and regulations. It’s not just something that can just be adopted from the US model just like that. Canada has to deal with two official languages. So you’re dealing with a whole different ball game in Canada.

There are so many other VRS providers that are raking in money. What’s wrong with them. Why are you singling out Sorenson? Why is it okay that another VRS company makes money, but not Sorenson. VRS companies are money making machines. They came up with a brilliant business plan. I don’t blame them. If someone was going to offer me an excellent salary package, of course I would take a job. Why would I go for something less. Ask yourself if there was a job opportunity that paid you more than your old job, wouldn’t you go for it. Of course, more money means more financial freedom for your and your family.

After googling your Youtube videos, I can now understand where you are coming from.

After reading your comment, I can now understand where you are coming from… You sounded you are very dependent on VRS company to make a living regardless of how much Deaf Canadians are suffering for a lack of qualified and certified interpreters available for THEIR needs, medical, legal, and educational needs to advance themselves. I don’t need Canadian interpreters to work for ME! You are supposed to work with Deaf Canadians. Sorenson is interested in profit, more than ever. Please dig up information how Sorenson have alienated Deaf Americans every day… I am talking about the company, not interpreters who work for them.

I am very familiar about NAFTA. One time I was honeymooning at Los Cabos, and I rented a time-share condo on Mexican soil provided by Canadians. My husband and I looked each other and said, “NAFTA”.

Mexicans sold cheap properties to Canadians, and they profit from Americans who are vacationing. Who got screwed? Mexicans. They lost beachfront properties, and ended running deep sea fishing business for tourists at the fraction of cost compared to Canadians raking money from Americans. Americans do screw you without you realizing that Deaf Canadians still don’t have accessibility as we do. Why? You want to make a living for yourself, not for the Deaf Community who gave you a gift of language which you are making a living as a sign language interpreter. You work for Deaf Americans. That’s Sorenson to you.

By the way, I’m Deaf and not “dependent on VRS company to make a living”.

While I get the sense you have a significant disdain for Sorenson, you continue to make assertions such as ‘suffering’, ‘devastated’ and ‘alienated’. I haven’t seen any concrete proof of this other than scant, anecdotal testimonials that may or may not be authentic. If you can find any verifiable proof (ie. statistics, published findings, etc), by all means let us know.

Oh… Plenty of proof. Plenty. It is at FCC database. My apologies for assumption. Google Sorenson… Ye shall find golden nuggets here and there…

If Sorenson set their foot onto Canadian soil, it is supposed to be their intention to help Deaf Canadians have Canada VRS. They could have worked with Canadian government and guide them to find a way to fund VRS.

So it is like Sorenson got onto Canadian soil, recruit interpreters for trial project then dropped the bomb on deaf Canadians by ending their VRS services to Deaf Canadians and use their already recruited interpreters to set their cash flow to give their upper management golden pots.

In addition Sorenson probably made this move knowing that there is no health insurance cost to the company to insure Canandian interpreters since the government provides health care and pay them cheap while American interpreters may have cost them $$ in pay, health & dental insurance, workers compenstation and many more.

In addition these Canadian interpreters may be used as contractors while Canada employment law differ from our law where American interpreters has to be employed by Sorenson.

With this loophole Sorenson found – don’t be surprised to see them setting up call center in countries like Phillipines and pay them cheap….

Sorry to say – Sorenson is actually taking advantage of you while you all are taking the rap by angry Canadian citizens for not being available to interpret for them or stand by their side in their dreams of having their own VRS service.

As for American deaf citizens – go ahead and BOYCOTT SORENSON!

SupportAmericans Says: If Sorenson set their foot onto Canadian soil……

Canadian Citizen: Interesting opinion. So what you are essentially saying is that all American companies should close up shop here in Canada because they are not benefiting Canadians since the revenue goes to American coffers. I’ll make sure and do my last shopping at Costco, Walmart, Target, Best Buy, etc.. and help you boycott those companies.

SupportAmericans Says: So it is like Sorenson got onto Canadian ….

CC: This paragraph is so full of errors that I’m not really sure where to begin. First of all, Sorenson came to Canada to outsource their business. Second, they did not recruit interpreters for the VRS pilot. Interpreters were already working there. Third , Sorenson did NOT “dropped the bomb on deaf Canadians”. There was a time line and it was even extended. Fourth, you seem to dislike the notion that management type people earn money – not sure what your point is here. Fifth, so what if Sorenson doesn’t have a financial burden for health care like they do in the USA. What’s your point?

SupportAmericans Says: In addition these Canadian interpreters…

CC: Again, what is your point here? Of course there are different laws between Canada and the US. Did you know that the laws differ between Poland and China? Another error – Interpreters ARE employed in Canada by Sorenson. Checking facts is a worthwhile endeavour.

SupportAmericans Says: With this loophole Sorenson found – don’t be surprised to see them setting up call center in countries like Philippines and pay them cheap….

CC: What loophole? Sorry, this one went over my head.

SupportAmericans Says: Sorry to say – Sorenson is actually taking advantage of you…

CC: Wow. You mean ALL Canadian citizens are outraged? Really? You’ve talked to them all? Or is it really just a handful of people who are decrying Sorenson? Are you suggesting that no interpreter wants to stand by the deaf communities in their goal for VRS services, are you? Seriously? Do you want to reconsider your statement?

SupportAmericans Says: As for American deaf citizens – go ahead and BOYCOTT SORENSON!

CC: Yes, by all means, use your freedom of speech and follow your conscience.

Amy: “I am very familiar with NAFTA.”

Sure Canadians buy condos in Mexico. Canadians also buy condos in Costa Rica, South America. What’s more, Asians buy houses in Canada. Even the multi-millionaire Europeans buy houses in Canada. I’m not sure how the NAFTA has anything to do with people buying condos. Last time I checked, anyone can buy condos.

Amy: “Oh.. plenty of proof”.

I’m curious to know what proof you have already gathered. As you made the claims, the burden of proof lies on the claimant. I would very much like to know what proof you have identified.

Wow. I think I may have just had a mini-stroke reading all of the ridiculous ‘facts’ and ‘information’ that Amy posted on here. If it wasn’t for Sorenson, Deaf Canadians in Alberta and BC would never had the opportunity to experience VRS. Did you notice that Bell was able to get out of actually doing a trial and is just collecting information for their part of the study? Sorenson has call centres in Canada, and interpreters who work in them. Hmmm….where better to conduct a trial of VRS in Canada…n o w h e r e because there aren’t any other companies who have the technology or resources do to so. You are going about this wrong way, as are some Deaf canadians, blaming the interpreters and blaming Sorenson. You’re shooting yourselves in the foot – Sorenson is your best bet at getting a VRS service set up here in Canada. Sorenson managers and representatives spent countless hours meeting with the CRTC, showing them what VRS looks like, letting them experience real VRS calls, seeing the call centres, and explaining how important this service would be to Deaf Canadians, pleading their case. You need to give your head a shake, Amy, open your mind and try seeing the real big picture.

Canadian VRS Interpreter,

I was Sorenson consumer since 2002 and I officially terminated their services in two months ago. I have seen how Sorenson have treated Deaf Americans and how their business practice is never been customer-orientated. I have already seen the big picture. You work for Sorenson Communications of Canada, it benefits you personally which is a short-term and believe me, in a long-term, you will be disappointed.

Please take your time to google up about Deaf Americans’ feelings of Sorenson and their business practices.

Amy,

The whole premise of this Canada VRS issue is about getting VRS secured in Canada. It appears that you are arguing which VRS provider is best for you as an American. You have the luxury of choosing amongst the different VRS companies so you have the freedom of choice. But there is no need to project your disdain for Sorenson North of the border.

Canada doesn’t even have VRS, period. It would not have mattered if it was Purple or Convo that provided the service in Canada. It would still end anyway.

But it’s not about Sorenson in Canada. It’s about lobbying to have VRS in Canada. Try to keep your disdain for Sorenson separate from Canada’s issue of securing VRS permanently which are two completely different issues.

By the way, Sorenson was instrumental in keeping the ASL program at Vancouver Community College alive. At least they helped save jobs of all the deaf teachers there.

Perhaps if you want to share your opinion on the Facebook page called Canada VRS Rally. You can share your perspective with other Deaf Canadians and see how many people resonate with you. I completely agree about lobbying to have VRS in Canada. I believe that Canadians needs to learn USA’s mistakes, and do much better than what we have gone through. One company VRS is never a good idea. You may want to lobby for choices and accessibility. Also, for increasing interpreter workforce, it comes from NDA law (similar to our ADA law) which I believe is still a bill that has not been passed. I believe that Deaf Canadians deserve better and do better too.

Amy your negative comments about Sorenson setting up in Canada is not helpful to Deaf Canadians. You have no idea as to how much Sorenson advocated for Deaf Canadians to set up the trial. They are a business, yes, so they are there to make money. What difference does that make. Any other VRS Service setting up in Canada would also be making revenue off the service. The issue here is that Canada wants VRS. I don’t see why it’s such a big deal if Sorenson ends up providing the service first. I assume Deaf Canadians just want VRS Service. Lets just get it going….I’m sure there will be opportunities for other companies to set up in the future so that Deaf Canadians will have a choice. Amy it’s your right and your choice to use another provider. Canadians don’t have that choice….heck at the moment they don’t even have VRS. I’m tired of listening to everyone complain about the Canadian Interpreters that work there. As an Interpreter I have that right. I too have bills to pay a family to support. If it wasn’t for Sorenson I would have left the Interpreting field. As there was no work. I am currently working towards getting my Qualifications so that I can do medical interpreting. If I wasn’t working at Sorenson I probably wouldn’t feel ready to take this exam.

I’m tired of hearing this nonsense about “OUR” Interpreters! The last time I checked my College Diploma it said that I was an American Sign Language Interpreter. It didn’t stipulate which community I need to work for. You’re American you believe in people have rights and freedoms. Well guess what as an Interpreter I have the Right and Freedom to work where I want. I chose to work at Sorenson, and I also pick up work in Post Secondary, and I do some Freelance work as well. What more do you want me to do? If I totally give up working at Sorenson VRS I’ll have to get another job in another field because it’s too hard to rely totally on contract work. The Deaf Community here does not OWN me. I provide Interpreting Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

You demand that Sorenson close Canadian Call Centres. We have shortages of Nurses and Doctors I was wondering if you could help Canadians by advocating for us and get the USA to send our Doctors and Nurses back to our communites as our health are system is strained, and lacking qualified Doctors and Nurses.

This entire issue has gone from “We Want VRS NOW” to “Close Sorensen Call Centres in Canada” to slamming Sorenson VRS Interpreters. Members in or Deaf Community have said we lack conscience, we should be ashamed of ourselves, that they don’t care if we make a living, etc, etc.

I supported the Deaf community when the ASL and Deaf Studies Program was going to shut down. I signed a petition and wrote a letter. I supported VRS in Canada, and I supported the VRS Rally. I went to the Rally, I signed a petition and I wrote a letter to my MP…..even after I was slammed by some members of Deaf Community. Do you think it makes me eager to quit working at Sorenson and work freelance only after hearing those comments. I was so fed up yesterday that I took myself off the Canada VRS Rally page. I’m not the only Interpreter that feels this way. I wonder if Vincent isn’t getting an Interpreter for his appointments because there is a shortage or because Interpreters in this community don’t want to work with him anymore? You think Interpreters aren’t keeping track of who’s saying all the negative comments? You bet we are. I think those people are just shooting themselves in the foot. I think the Deaf community is wasting way too much time and energy on criticizing Sorrenson and the Canadian Interpreters. Why don’t you put that energy to better use and lobby the government.

The sense I have received from posting on Canada VRS rally in the most diplomatic manner (for which I was removed from the group which boggles my mind as I did not make any critical comments towards any person) and reading from several bloggers here on your page, I simply don’t understand why the Deaf community expresses so much hatred towards Sorenson interpreters. Why is the Deaf community doing this now? Sorenson has been around in Canada for several years now, yet the community is acting out purely on emotion claiming that Sorenson is the problem now, not 3 years ago. Don’t you agree that this is the most unhealthy approach to healing from oppression as Deaf people?

Sorenson is definitely not the culprit. It is the Canadian government at fault, pur and pur! It should have been more diligent and forthcoming in promoting more telephone access to Deaf Canadians. They appear to be listening too much to the lobbyists from the Canadian telephone companies, whose interests are to delay this accessibility service and to minimize the costs for the VRS, because they worry the basic phone charges would go up. I believe, the legislators or whoever is holding the regulatory power would want the accessibility surcharge terms to limit to a dime or quarter than the 75 cents in the U.S.

Hartmut

Amy, I am surprised about your logical thinking. You are barking definitely at the wrong tree!

You are vehemently against Sorenson, like those who are against Microsoft. I have been concerned about the market share of the Sorenson Company. I found, it is still far off having a controlling share of the market. Furthermore, Sorenson is giving a lot of money to the Deaf Community. How it compares to other VRS providers in this area escapes my knowledge.

The problem of availability of interpreters for community jobs varies in different locations, where draining interpreting resources may affect there. It is up to the interpreter’s ethics to avail themselves to VRS or to community interpreting. At Sorenson, interpreters bid for the time slots which are available after first booking the community interpreting hours, often only one week in advance. In the Boston area, there is not much of a problem of the availability of interpreting for the community and the numerous universities and community colleges here. Bostonian interpreters book their jobs for them first, then VRS for any unbooked time. I understand, VRS interpreters can be called off from VRS service in emergency situations, especially those who are certified to interpret in legal situations.

Hartmut

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