It’s the Law!

February 21st, 2016

There’s a big Court date coming up in the Canadian Standards Association’s (CSA) lawsuit against PS Knight Co. 

In their claim, the CSA makes two arguments, as follows;

The CSA’s first argument is that because they lobbied governments for certain changes to law, the CSA therefore privately owns those laws which incorporate those changes.  Of course that’s an awfully weak argument, it would mean that every company, union, church, club (etc.) that has ever successfully lobbied any government for any change of any law would therefore own those respective laws privately.  Given the weakness of the argument, the CSA is using a fallback argument.

The CSA’s second argument, their fallback, is that Canada’s electrical laws aren’t really laws, they’re just documents that are referred to within laws.  In this, they claim that the Canadian Electrical Code (the Code) is not the body of electrical law in Canada, but is merely a set of suggestions, purely voluntary in nature.

Let’s assess the CSA argument together.  Let’s say you, the usually law abiding reader, drive your car at, say, 75km/h in a 50km/h area.  Let’s say that you’re pulled over by your local police officer.  Let’s say that you agree entirely with CSA’s argument and you decide to use that argument in speaking with the police officer.  You inform, indeed you educate, that officer about traffic law, advising that speed limits aren’t laws at all, they just referenced in laws but are not laws themselves.  You insist that speed signs are merely suggestions, purely voluntary in nature.  So, would you get a ticket?

While the weakness of CSA’s argument is a remarkable thing, their leadership ineptitude is more remarkable still.  One would think if they’re arguing in Court that the Code isn’t really the law, that they’d be consistent in their public statements about the the Code being not the law.  Well, they’re not.

For example, the Code is passed into provincial law in every Province in Canada.  Each province adopts the Code in its entirety and they each add a small number of provincial amendments to it.  The result becomes the law in that province.  In Ontario, the result is called the Ontario Electrical Safety Code, or “OESC.”  The CSA is presently selling the OESC on their corporate website.  Here’s the CSA’s advertising pitch for the Code in Ontario:

“Electrical Installations in Ontario Must Adhere to the Ontario Electrical Safety Code - It’s the Law”. [emphasis added]

That line isn’t small print, it’s the banner heading on CSA’s webpage for Code products. 

So, to the Court they claim that the Code isn’t the law, but to the public they claim the opposite, that “it’s the law.”

But it gets worse.

RestoreCSA readers will recall that CSA made a big deal out of Industry Minister James Moore’s Parliamentary Determination that the Code wasn’t part of law.  Specifically, and through a major CSA lobbying effort, they persuaded the Minister to state that CSA developed materials incorporated into provincial laws are merely “voluntary standards” whose character as independent of the law is unchanged by inclusion within the law.  The Minister’s Determination was that CSA materials are “referenced in regulations,” but they are not part of regulations per se. 

That of course, opened a massive can of worms and the Minister did nothing but back-pedal ever-after.  Still, the Minister’s Determination, however inconsistent, is a key argument for CSA.  One would think if they’re arguing in Court that standards “referenced” in legislation aren’t part of law, that they’d be consistent in their public statements on the matter.  Well, they’re not.

For example, on the CSA’s corporate website, in the FAQ section, here’s what they say about their standards absolutely not becoming law through referencing in legislation;

“A standard or code becomes law only if [sic] becomes referenced in legislation by a federal, provincial or municipal government, or any authority having jurisdiction”.

So, to the Court they claim that referencing in legislation makes the Code private property, but to the public they claim the opposite, that anything “referenced” in legislation “becomes law”.

And incidentally, in the context of the above quotation, one may be amused to note that the CSA, “continually delivering the highest standards of quality and excellence,” published three grammatical errors in a paragraph of only three sentences.  That’s CSA standard for “quality and excellence.”

The CSA is all about standards.  Well, double standards really.  The CSA’s penchant for making opposite claims on the same issue to different audiences is being exposed in Court for the first time on February 23rd.  On this date, a Federal Court in Toronto will hear one version of CSA’s arguments concerning the Code as either a suggestion or a law.  They’re asking the Court to prevent public access to public law on the basis that the Code isn’t what they’ve already claimed it is.  They’re demanding that the Court disregard the CSA’s past statements in deference to their current contradictions of those statements. 

The CSA has everything on the line in Court.  It’s going to be a big day for all of us.

RestoreCSA will report the Ruling of the Court as soon as its released. 

Thank you for your support.