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Judge won't reinstate CRTC commissioner pending his legal fight over firing

Last Updated Sep 9, 2016 at 3:11 pm PDT

TORONTO – A former commissioner of Canada’s broadcast regulator has lost his bid for reinstatement pending a court fight over his firing.

In a decision Friday, Federal Court Judge Anne Mactavish ruled against Raj Shoan’s request, saying he has failed to show he would suffer irreparable harm in the interim if his injunction request failed.

The federal government terminated Shoan’s five-year appointment as a commissioner to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission for cause in June amid concerns over his conduct.

Among other things, the government suggested Shoan had disparaged the commission and its chairman in public, and had made unfounded accusations of unethical conduct or conflicts of interest on commission.

The government also raised concerns over allegations of harassment made against him.

Last week, however, another Federal Court judge ruled in Shoan’s favour over a review of his conduct that found he had engaged in workplace harassment.

In that decision, Judge Russel Zinn was sharply critical of both the investigator and CRTC chairman, Jean-Pierre Blais and set aside the harassment finding.

In her decision, Mactavish noted that the harassment findings — now set aside — featured prominently in the government’s concerns about Shoan and in its decision to axe him.

“These findings raise a serious issue as to whether it was appropriate to rely on the findings of the investigation report as a basis for concluding that Mr. Shoan’s actions were fundamentally incompatible with his position as commissioner, and for terminating his appointment for cause,” Mactavish wrote.

However, the judge also found that putting Shoan back in his position would do nothing to restore cabinet’s trust in him or repair his reputation.

“I am also not persuaded that any harm that Mr. Shoan may have sustained to his reputation is ‘irreparable’,” Mactavish wrote.

“Should Mr. Shoan’s application for judicial review ultimately succeed, it would be open to him to commence an action for damages, both in relation to his lost income, and with respect to the harm that he says that he has sustained to his reputation and career prospects.”

Ultimately, the judge court found, the government has raised serious concerns about Shoan’s ability to do his job. Reinstating him now — before his case is thrashed out in court — would undermine the integrity of the CRTC and public confidence in the commission.

Cabinet decisions, she said, also enjoy a “presumption of validity.”