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Sorenson’s Impact on Canada : NAFTA Argument (Part 3)

All,

This is the third 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 Proliferation, and this entry will discuss about Sorenson’s counterattack against FCC’s proposed rules having call centers located in United States.

Sorenson fought hard. Their lawyers came up with the loophole. That is called North America Fair Trade Agreement, also known as NAFTA. The North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA is an agreement signed by the governments of Canada, Mexico, and the United States, creating a trilateral trade bloc in North America. The agreement came into force on January 1, 1994.

Sorenson submitted comments to FCC on September 10, 2010 with an argument why FCC should continue to allow VRS call centers to operate in Canada. See page 7 through 10.

Forcing Sorenson to shutter its Canadian interpreting centers, any such mandate would violate the international obligations of the United States, including the North American Free Trade Agreement (“NAFTA”). Such violations, moreover, could easily spark retaliatory actions by Canada, creating a trade war that would benefit neither country. This situation would be damaging enough by itself, but here the damage would be magnified by the fact that closure of the Canadian interpreting centers “will inevitably create more demand for qualified interpreters” in the United States, thereby exacerbating the domestic shortage of interpreters and putting upward pressure on the size of the (TRS) Fund.


FCC filed an order on April 5, 2011.
Go to page 9 which discusses about Location of VRS Call Centers. It is an ORDER. FCC allowed this to happen.

Apparently Sorenson won this argument. It is not too late. We can ask FCC to reconsider because Canada is suffering so much right now.

My next entry will talk about Canada’s fight to get their own Video Relay Services in their own country. This will explain the history of Canada’s fight, and how Sorenson got involved with this kind of ‘mess’ with British Columbia and Alberta Deaf Canadians. It started 16 months ago with an experiment.

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8 comments on “Sorenson’s Impact on Canada : NAFTA Argument (Part 3)

[…] more here: Sorenson's Impact on Canada : NAFTA … – Deaf World as Eye See It Tagged with: else-load • mexico • typeof-add • united-states • […]

Dear Amy Cohen,

Your posted comments about Sorenson’s Support Centers, across Canada, only provides tech support for Deaf American customers has caught my attention. As you know that, I am an American married to my wife Lisa Anderson-Kellett. Allow me to introduce myself, I am Mike Kellett currently and applying for Permanent Resident to reside in Canada. You may have heard my wife’s name in many of her BCVRS vlogs in the past months up to the end of the VRS trial.

Unknown to me, I was not aware of the several Sorenson’s Support Centers scattered across Canada. I was shocked and pretty furious that my American tax money was going to the Sorenson centers as Deaf Canadians are lacking a permanent VRS due to the lack of a National Disability Act (NDA) as equivalent to United States’ ADA.
When the Telus-Sorenson trial had ended last night at midnight on Pacific Time zone, I knew, I was going to be back in the Dark Ages; that is using the TTY for relay services. I stopped using this method about 8 years ago when I got my first VP in Michigan. Then now I have heard about the support centers in Canada.

I am very familiar with the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA) due to my father’s lifetime business in floor works. To the truth, this ACT is solely written for goods (agriculture and durable products) imported and exported between Canada, Mexico, and United States. It is good for our countries because the we do not have to place tariffs and taxes in order to raise competition in the market prices. For example, Japanese cars imported to United States we have to add roughly $ 8,000 to $12,000 as tariffs to raise the prices to meet GM, Ford, and Chrysler prices on our cars to create a price competition. If we did not do this, our money would go to Japan because of Americans and Canadians not buying our cars. We have to protect the labor forces and keep the jobs here in North America.

I have extensively studied the NAFTA. The entire Act focuses on goods only, and explicitly not services. I pondered this for a while. Really, come to think of this, these Sorenson centers really violate the NAFTA. Sorenson support centers actually benefits the company itself but hurts the American and the Canadian.

Allow me to explain this further, the Canadian are suffering from a lack of a permanent VRS and now, I will begin to suffer because I have to start using my wife’s TTY and look for an antiquated head phone to fit the receiver and the microphone ends. We are in the age of using “candy-bar” shaped cellphones! We are forced to return to the Dark Ages for the sake of using TTY/TDD relay services. This bears a blunt slap on the faces of Canadians.

For me, as an American I did not like it when I discovered there were Sorenson’s support centers here in Canada for Deaf Americans. Here are my reasons why discovering this really makes me perturbed to see my tax dollars going to Canada directly to the support center to support their infrastructure system that is . . . support staff, Sorenson VP equipment which legally are the property of Sorenson’s, paying for the internet provider to convey video messages thru VP’s to Deaf Americans across the border. I have nothing against my own countrymen and the Canadians. It is my tax dollars going somewhere else rather than staying in America. I do know there are Sorenson’s support centers across the United States but why add more in Canada and not yet serve the Canadians?

I believe Sorenson has really violated the NAFTA by twisting some words for “services” and change it to Goods. In reality, the VP equipment located at several support centers are still Sorenson’s property and they were not sold to anyone but only used for their own support services. NAFTA does not involve services but only goods. They are not taxed when shipments crosses the borders. It is only up to the states and provinces to tax the goods as sales tax.

In other words, Sorenson services and its infrastructure does not belong in the NAFTA because company brought the goods themselves to use it in Canada. In other words nothing were “for sale.” However, Americans’ tax dollars are paying the Canadians for its staff and the use of servers under one or more of the several major Internet providers in Canada. As an American, I love Canada as well; it is a beautiful country. It is my opinion if Sorenson is not helping Canada in establishing a permanent VRS service countrywide, the Sorenson has no business setting up their support centers in Canada. They should leave or close their services.

Soon after this letter, I will be informing my wife’s local Member of the Parliament (MP) about all of this. We have a large Deaf community. I don’t think they are aware that I am more angry about this than they are because my tax dollars is not being used as accordingly to what NAFTA outlines only for goods being traded between the three countries. My final words, Sorenson has to leave.

Thank you

Michael Kellett

Mike: ” I was going to be back in the Dark Ages”

Me: Don’t forget about IP Relay. That’s not the equivalent of the ‘Dark Ages’. The Dark Ages refers to the “period of intellectual darkness” which is a stark difference from retreating back to old technology. FYI I received the source from ‘Wikipedia’ to help me understand what the “Dark Ages” is referring to.

Mike: Your interpretation of NAFTA

Me: Your interpretation of what NAFTA is quite convincing. Yet I’m not sold on the assertions you have brought up. I imagine I would need to spend countless hours reading about the NAFTA before I really get the gist of it. I wouldn’t dare say that “I’m very familiar with NAFTA”. My earliest memory learning about NAFTA was in secondary school. I can appreciate you draw your experiences from your father’s business. However if you could make references to such assertions, by all means do so. That would solidify your statement by far and large.

The bottom line is that Sorenson didn’t come to Canada to serve Canadians anyway. They came here to outsource. This has nothing to do with our desire to have VRS which is the issue. I’m concerned that we are diverting our attention to who owns the VRS service. Our attention should be rediverted to CRTC. It’s the CRTC who’s dragging us down (note: that’s my opinion) because we still don’t have VRS. CRTC is the one we should be devoting our attention to, not Sorenson. Once that’s nailed down, then by all means start the battle of the ownership whether it’s Sorenson or not.

This whole idea about outsourcing is well-known. So many companies in Canada outsource to foreign countries. Isn’t it too bad that our unemployment rate could probably improve if we kept those jobs in Canada. It’s like those countries are ‘stealing’ our jobs, akin to Sorenson ‘stealing’ our interpreters. I appreciate that it’s really comparing two different things, so I won’t take that any further.

Mike:”I will be informing my wife’s local MP”

Me: Wonderful! This is exactly what we need to do!

My final words: CRTC has to make up their mind quick!

Mike, you bring up an interesting discussing about NAFTA, particularly distinguishing the difference between goods and services. Since Sorenson does not fall under the category of goods, then how did Sorenson violate NAFTA?

I’m really enjoying this thought provoking discussion.

Hi My Opinion,

I, myself also enjoying this thought provoking discussion too. It is so important that we keep informed of what is happening that will impact our livelihood. Our right to accessibility.

Amy

If you look at the Article 102 of the NAFTA agreement outlines its purpose:

Grant the signatories Most Favored Nation status.

Eliminate barriers to trade and facilitate the cross-border movement of goods and services.

Promote conditions of fair competition.

Increase investment opportunities.

Provide protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights.

Create procedures for the resolution of trade disputes.

Establish a framework for further trilateral, regional, and multilateral cooperation to expand NAFTA’s benefits.

_______________

Please think about the second statement “Eliminate barriers to trade and facilitate the cross-border movement of goods and services.” It makes no sense for Sorenson to choose establish Support centers that will entirely provide services to America Deaf customers. It is like bringing American made capital goods into a foreign country only to make products and services for United States period, no one else. This Act was ratified by the legislatures of the three countries in 1993.

Number 1, China has received USA’s most favored nation status. This led USA mega-corporations to out-resourcing our labor jobs to China mostly because labor is cheaper. If you are typing these messages on an iMac product, the machine is “Made in China and Designed in California.” Chuckle, this has been going on for a long time since NAFTA was ratified when I was in college.

This very Act made it legal for American companies to send jobs overseas to produce goods of all kinds and bring back home with a high price. Companies rake in huge profits and only pay minable to factory workers around $2 an hour. For these large corporations, it seems like a very good idea to produce things at a very low cost and reap big profits back at home in USA and Canada, at the end who gets the profits? The very corporations that send jobs to overseas countries such as China. These companies are Apple, Ford, GM, and many of other of electronics companies.

Now here is the problem with Sorenson. They are circumventing and eluding the strict NAFTA regulations. Sorenson, technically, can not use, set up, and locate its Sorenson Support Centers in overseas countries where American Sign Language (ASL) are not used in other countries Deaf Community. ASL visual language barely exists in China. Where else would they go to look for places to set up new centers? In other words, they went to Canada because ASL is used in most of Canada’s provinces except in Quebec where Quebec Sign Language is more widely used with the Deaf French Canadians. This other particular sign language known in French Canada as Langue des signes québécoise (LSQ). The bottom line Canada is not listed as a “ Most Favored Nation. China has that status.

Let us get back to the point. For a minute, I realized I was discussing LSQ as an issue, my apologies. As we may know that Sorenson, it is not surprising they would use, Canadians who could sign ASL fluently and work for the Sorenson Support Center (SSC).

I suspect that Sorenson found a loophole to place their SSCs in most of the provinces that border with the United States. Why did this videophone company move its SSCs to Canada? Any companies that operate outside of their own country would have to file their annual taxes to the IRS and the CRA (Canada Revenue Agency). This is not a keen idea for Sorenson to provide customer service and tech support to Deaf Americans outside of their own country.

From my four-year experience, I have gone back and forth between the USA and Canada. I have noticed both countries’ currencies about on par for a while. However, both dollars’ values do flip-flops. In a period of few weeks, the America dollar stays high above the Canada dollar or it will be below Canada’s dollar. It is always a “few to several” cents for every dollar. I do not think Sorenson will not worry about that.

There are many jobs, in Canada, have the same step wages as it is in the United States. This still begs the question “Why pay the Canadians Sorenson staff at the same wage as they would do in the USA. Is Sorenson taking advantage of the NAFTA act with a loophole? Yes and maybe, because it is the fact that Canada which is the one and only other country that has Deaf communities that use ASL; Sorenson is circumventing around this act because they can not technically use Chinese who use ASL . . . Where do we find them? Maybe sent the Deaf Americans to set up and work at the Support center. However, that creates problems; China has a strong censorship on the Internet, thus out signing dialogue will be monitored. Sorenson workers will need passports, work visas, and all the legial prior approval before going to China. In reality, it is too much trouble to ask for all preparations.

It is still my opinion that the support centers, for Deaf American Sorenson customer based in Canada, should discontinue and close their doors a relocate back to the U.S.A.

Mike,

You’re completely focusing on the wrong issue. Set Sorenson aside….because you’re going to have to fight NAFTA itself. That’s a big issue! I’m sure many people have tried. You can tell your MP to send Starbucks, Costco, Walmart, Target, etc, etc to go home too. Unfortunately then all the people that work there (Canadians) will be out of jobs….but who cares about that….your concern is only for the Canadian Interpreters that work at Sorenson….because the Deaf community thinks they OWN them.

In reality Sorenson Canada services Americans. If the call centres close here in Canada that means many Deaf Americans will not get good VRS services. Much longer hold times….because the US also has a shortage of Interpreters.

You seem very educated and articulate so instead of wasting an MP’s time on NAFTA or why Sorenson should leave Canada. Why don’t you spend it convincing the MP that the Deaf Community in Canada needs VRS, and then say Sorenson already has call centre’s set up here, they could provide the service immediately.

The Deaf community is wasting way too much time talking about Sorenson and not enough time being proactive about why they need VRS. Get VRS established first then worry about what Sorenson is doing.

If Sorenson happens to be the one that is the first provider of VRS services in Canada….I doubt the Deaf community will be complaining too long. Sorenson will have to hire tech support and intallers and those will be Deaf Canadians. In the end Sorenson could create a lot of jobs for the Deaf community here. Why don’t you just focus on the issue…that is VRS NOW!!

Dear My Two Cents,

Corporations such as Starbucks, Costco, Wal-Mart, Target, are free enterprise markets. That means they do not receive any Federal funding or grants. They are on their own. In addition to this, no taxes are applied on goods as they cross the borders. It is up the provinces and states to apply sales tax upon the products that the customers are buying. This creates less paperwork. That is good for Canada, Mexico and USA; it is especially good on saving trees (Yay, hands waving).

There is no Target stores in Canada until it has announced as of January 6, 2012; Target will implement 24 new stores (all in Ontario) and they are in the process to buy out Zellers stores as stated as in a previous report. Target purchased the leasehold interests of 189 sites currently operated by Zellers Inc., and plans to open 125 to 135 stores in Canada, the majority of which will open in 2013. (source: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/target-unveils-first-24-canadian-stores/article2292381/ ). Target plans to open stores in the following locations in March/early April, 2013.

However, in contrast, Sorenson is a profit company but they still receive money from FCC for calls being made through VRS, I may be wrong. However, in reality, when we make a VP-to-VP calls . . . it is free because we are paying for the Internet services. However, making a VRS calls, the interpreters are paid with the Federal taxpayers money via FCC. But for support centers, located in Canada, providing tech support for Deaf Americans, who is footing the bill? If the technicians are Canadians at support centers are being pay with American’s money. Then the American money leaves the United States and stays in Canada. I have nothing against the Canadians. My wife is a Canadian and I am an American.

It just still begs the questions, where is the money going?

Already, my wife has met with our local MP Peter Julian a month ago and he has submitted a Private Members’ Business Motion, M-305. The Motion was submitted on January 26, 2012. Below, are the contents of the motion:

M-305 — January 26, 2012 — Mr. Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster) — That, in the opinion of the House, the government should: (a) reverse the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s decision to end the Video Relay Service (VRS) trial program hosted by TELUS-Sorensen which covered the region of British Columbia and Alberta; (b) restore the VRS; and (c) immediately adopt VRS technology, in both official languages and in American Sign Language and Quebec Sign Language as needed, as an option for Canadian deaf persons who require services that facilitate phone conversations, in addition to the current text-based Message Relay Service.

You can find this on the Internet at http://peterjulian.ndp.ca/post/in-the-house-m-305-to-restore-vrs/pour-retablir-srv and on the House of Parliament at

http://www.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?Language=E&Mode=1&Parl=41&Ses=1&DocId=5339485&File=11

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