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PIAC and Chimo Community Services Ask CRTC to Eliminate Cell Phone Charges for Calls to Helplines

OTTAWA –- The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) and Chimo Community Services (Chimo) filed an application today with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, asking it to eliminate charges for Canadians who call helplines and crisis lines from their cell phones, and to protect helpline users’ privacy.

Currently, Canadians who call helplines from their wireless phones are charged for those calls or have those voice minutes deducted if they have a voice plan. Callers’ accounts can also identify the fact that a call was made to a helpline, as well as the number of that helpline.

PIAC and Chimo argued that wireless charges and the inadequate protection of a helpline caller’s privacy were unjustly discriminatory towards helpline users and helpline operators.

“If someone were to make a local call or a call to a 1-800 or 1-888 helpline number from a landline phone, their call would be free for them”, said Jean-François Léger, Counsel for PIAC and Chimo. “That shouldn’t change just because they are now calling from their cellular phone. And more and more Canadians only have cell phones, not landline phones.”

“Cell phone users should not have to fear that calls to helplines would be traceable by anyone who has access to account information,” added Alysia Lau, Legal Counsel at PIAC. “This is particularly important in situations of domestic violence.”
Many helpline users are from socially and economically vulnerable groups, and call looking for counselling or support. Usage charges create barriers for callers who have low incomes, as many are subscribed to pay-as-you-go wireless plans. These barriers also create challenges for helpline agencies trying to provide their clients with the support they need.

“Our Crisis Line receives over 10,000 calls per year from people of every walk of life,” said Lisa Westermark, Executive Director at Chimo. “Many are youth or individuals with low income. Many have nowhere else to turn. It would be tragic if someone in need was not able to access our free service due to the cost of the call.”

PIAC and Chimo’s application is supported by eight other community organizations and associations. These are: Ending Violence Association of B.C., Family Services of Greater Vancouver, Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses, Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres, Richmond Youth Service Agency, Safe Communities Cranbrook Committee, Vancouver Coastal Health, and Women Against Violence Against Women Rape Crisis Centre.

They invite all Canadians to submit comments on their application, which can be found on the PIAC website at www.piac.ca

*PIAC Chimo Part 1 Application Helplines [pdf file: 0.37mb]

*PIAC Chimo Part 1 Application Helplines App A_Part1 [pdf file: 0.94mb]

*PIAC Chimo Part 1 Application Helplines App A_Part2 [pdf file: 0.92mb]

*PIAC Chimo Part 1 Application Helplines App B [pdf file: 0.13mb]

For more information, please contact:

Alysia Lau
Legal Counsel
Public Interest Advocacy Centre
(613) 562-4002×38
alau@piac.ca

Jean-François Léger
Legal Counsel to the
Public Interest Advocacy Centre
(613) 562-4002×28
jfleger@piac.ca

Lisa Westermark
Executive Director
Chimo Community Services
(604) 279-7076
lwestermark@chimoservices.com

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