Jean-Pierre Blais at the launch of the video relay service

Speech

Gatineau, Québec
September 28, 2016

Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman and CEO
Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)

Check against delivery

Bonjour. Good morning.

I am delighted to be here today for the launch of the video relay service.

Before we begin, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that this event is taking place on traditional Algonquin territory. I would like to thank the Algonquin people and pay respect to their elders.

I would also like to acknowledge a few guests here with us today: the Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister for Sport and persons with disabilities, Sue Decker, the Executive Director of CAV, CAV board members and staff, leaders of the deaf and hard of hearing community, and of course, our interpreters.    

It is a pleasure to be in the Grand Hall at the Canadian Museum of History – an appropriate location for such a momentous occasion in Canada.

The launch of VRS marks the beginning of a new chapter for many Canadians –– it’s another step to realizing the vision of a truly inclusive Canada.  But today’s event is just one of many in a long line of CRTC efforts over the years to ensure Canadians of all abilities are able to equitably connect with the broader Canadian society. These efforts can be traced back to the mid 1980’s when the CRTC began mandating the provision of message relay services for Canadians who have a hearing or speech disability and the mid-1990s when the CRTC laid out its original approach to closed captioning for Canadians who are deaf or hard of hearing.

I cannot stress enough the positive opportunities created by VRS. Who knows – one day, we might see an exhibit at this very museum on the history of VRS in Canada, featuring today as one of the significant steps in the process.

The video by the Canadian Administrator of VRS helps us all understand the immense difference that VRS will make in the lives of Canadians, making this day even more exciting and memorable.

After all, the video relay service is a tool that promotes self-sufficiency and social equality.

The foundations of today’s launch go back to 2013, when the most accessible public hearing in the history of the CRTC was held, in which deaf and hard of hearing Canadians intervened using sign language for the very first time.

What resulted is a made-for-Canada solution. The CAV – the independent Canadian administer of VRS – has launched a service that reflects the unique Canadian experience and its needs. I look forward to seeing the positive effect it will have on Canadians in the near future, and generations to come. Canadians whose first language is sign language were heard and I am confident they can see that reflected in the video relay service that officially begins today.

I would also like to take the opportunity to thank Sue Decker, Executive Director of CAV, along with her team and the Board of Directors for the successful launch of this initiative. It was a huge undertaking and you made it look effortless. Our team enjoyed working with yours, and we look forward to working with you again in the future.

The CRTC is very proud of the work accomplished to implement the video relay service.

This service will have a positive impact on the lives of so many Canadians.

That’s why the CRTC is continually working to provide Canadians with access to a world-class communications system.

Thank you. Merci.

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