A Canadian Internet and cablevision giant has won a procedural victory in B.C. Supreme Court in a case that's brought unwanted media attention.
Plaintiff Martin Halliday has alleged that Shaw Communications offered a discounted rate to customers who communicated with the company in Mandarin or Cantonese.
Halliday is seeking to have the lawsuit certified as a class action.
Shaw has denied the allegation and sought a judicial order to have its application heard first to dismiss the action under the court's summary-trial rule.
The company also applied for a court order to protect some information from disclosure prior to the plaintiff's class-action application being heard.
This month, Justice Veronica L. Jackson ruled that Shaw's applications can be heard first.
According to an edited transcript of her oral reasons for judgment, which was posted on the B.C. Supreme Court website on December 27, Shaw "provided some evidence which suggests, on a preliminary basis, that it has strong arguments in support of...its defence to the merits of the Plaintiff's claim".
"Shaw claims its reputation has been and will continue to be damaged as a result of the allegations set out in the notice of civil claim," Jackson stated. "Discrimination is not simply a civil wrong. It connotes a degree of iniquitousness not associated with a breach of contract or negligence.
"Where established, discriminatory behaviour is generally viewed as being worthy of rebuke and clear denunciation," she continued. "As such, in my view the resolution of such allegations on their merits, as quickly as possible, benefits all parties and weighs in favour of hearing the Summary Trial Application first, as long as fairness of the proceeding is not compromised."
The judge concluded that based upon the record before her, the plaintiff has not "attempted to move forward with great dispatch", nor has he been "stymied" by the corporation.
"Rather, it appears Shaw has been the driving force behind propelling the litigation forward, albeit toward summary trial," she stated.
Moreover, Jackson's ruling indicated that Shaw Communications and Shaw Cablesystems G.P. have "no interest" in settling the case.
"Shaw’s view is that the particular nature of the allegations—namely a discriminatory pricing scheme—is sufficiently serious to make it necessary to address the allegations on their merits," the judge stated.
Halliday's lawyer, Martin Sheard, told CTV News last year that there's documentary evidence supporting another claim by a former Shaw employee, Kwok Bo Daisy Halliday, that Shaw offered preferential treatment to Mandarin and Cantonese speakers.
Sheard also alleged at that time that Shaw's conduct violated the provincial Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act and other laws.
None of these allegations have been proven in court.