Railroads, Telephones and Banking

December 4th, 2013

The CSA is a leader of excellence in the provision of standards for the construction and works of North America’s rail and telecommunications sectors.  The CSA organization routinely offers exceptional products to the benefit of these industries.

As the CSA rightly stated, “no matter where you manufacture or sell your products, we will work with you to meet your business needs.”  This statement relates to CSA’s telephone and related equipment standards.  They are indeed fully certified to work with you in telecom, the CSA’s telecom offerings “are accredited by the Standards Council of Canada (SCC) to verify that your product complies” with CSA telecom standards.

The CSA has developed a magnificent range of telecom standards covering everything “telephone-based” including digital call answering technology.  “In a call answering application, the inte rface [sic] allows callers to leave messages from all types of phones.”  And CSA developed this.  They also explain their standards through helpful illustrations; “Figure one shows a taxonomy of telephone-based services, with shaded b oxes [sic] indicating the services within the scope of this International Standard.”

These CSA offerings testify to the resourcefulness and dynamism of their professional staff.  These diligent and heroic personages are tremendously active, true powerhouses of productivity, in all things telecom and railroad.  Indeed, even now, six decades after the dominance of telegraph lines in Canada, the CSA is still involved in setting standards for the height of telegraph polls. 

And with modernization, the CSA has responsibly focussed on digital technologies.  In banking, for instance, the CSA now proudly publishes standards for automated banking machines.  They’re in their second edition of Banking machine standards.

As for railroads, the CSA also has a long history of activity in standards for construction and works of railroads in Canada.  When the CSA began, said current CEO, Ash Sahi, “the idea was to have more public safety in railroads and bridges and electrical products.”  And its not just railroad standards they’re involved with, the CSA also actively supports and encourages the next generation of railroad engineers.  The CSA recently launched a new scholarship program at George Brown College, a purely philanthropic undertaking.  This new scholarship “will be in the college’s Railway Conductor Program.”

The signatories to the CSA’s original Federal Charter of 1919 clearly foresaw CSA activity in railways and telegraph or telephone lines and in banking.  The CSA charter specifically mentions these industries in its preamble.  The Charter states that the CSA is mandated to involve itself in “any of the purposes or objects” deemed acceptable by the Parliament of Canada, “except the construction and working of railways or of telegraph or telephone lines or the business of banking.”

Oh dear.  Perhaps the 1944 Charter Amendment released the CSA in these areas?

Actually, the Amendment to the Charter makes no changes at all to the preamble framework of the original document, the preclusion on activities in “the construction and working of railways or of telegraph or telephone lines or the business of banking” remains unchanged.

In fairness, the CSA hasn’t done perhaps as terrific a job in these areas as it may have seemed from the glowing report above.  The “figure one shows a taxonomy of telephone-based services” reference on the CSA website was actually missing both the “taxonomy” and the “telephone-based services.”  And the shaded boxes were missing (or, as they said, “shaded b oxes”).  And the “Figure one” they referenced was missing entirely from the page.  That, and their philanthropy doesn’t mean much if they’re donating somebody else’s money. 

The bottom line however, is that the tiny detail of their not legally being permitted to do what they’re doing does tend to change the complexion of their activities.

RestoreCSA is not opposed to railway or telecom standards or, for that matter, standards for telegraph polls.  In the same way, we’re not opposed to the Armed Forces having stockpiles of explosives.  They’re authorized to have explosives, its entirely legal that they have them.  But its worrying if a random resident of Oshawa starts stockpiling explosives in his basement.  The difference is the legality; the Army is authorized, the Oshawa fellow isn’t.

Given that the CSA is not authorized to be active in either the construction or the workings of the rail transport, telecom or banking sectors, we have sent the following letter to the Minister of Industry:

Dear Minister Moore:

The preamble framework of the Federal Charter of the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) reads, in part, that “the Secretary of State of Canada may, by Letters Patent, under his Seal of Office, grant a Charter to any number of persons, not less than five, who having complied with the requirements of the Act, apply therefor, constituting such persons and others who thereafter become members in the Corporation thereby created, a Body Corporate and Politic for any of the purposes or objects to which the Legislative Authority of the Parliament of Canada extends, except the construction and working of railways or of telegraph or telephone lines, or the business of Banking, and the issue of paper money, or the business of insurance or the business of a Loan Company or a Trust Company […].” [emphasis added]

We note that the 1944 Amendment to the CSA Federal Charter did not alter the preamble framework within which the original Charter and the 1944 Amendment are executed.  The CSA is therefore precluded from involvement in any activity tied to the construction or working of the noted sectors.  The CSA is heavily involved however, in both of the precluded sectors. 

The CSA is under the authority of Industry Canada via the Standards Council of Canada (SCC).  We hereby request that Industry Canada immediately revoke the CSA’s Federal Charter, pending investigation of their apparent ongoing violations of the preclusions contained within that Charter.  In the alternative, Industry Canada may wish to prohibit, through use of its power through the SCC over the CSA’s certification as a Standards Development Organization, any CSA involvement with, or sales of, any Standards tied to the construction or working of the precluded sectors, pending investigation.


Gordon Knight
P.S. Knight Co. Ltd.