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Our day will come
September 21, 2012
At long last, we know when we'll have our day in court.
Last week, the lawsuit our lawyers filed in May against Bell Mobility on my behalf (as the lead plaintiff) and on behalf of Bell's other Ontario prepaid mobile phone customers nudged forward.
In the chambers of the assigned judge, Justice Edward Belobaba, our lawyers (from the Toronto law firm Sack Goldblatt Mitchell LLP) and Bell's lawyers sat down (I imagine, all intensely thumbing through their Blackberry calendars) and came up with a timetable for the case.
Cross-examination of witnesses is to be completed by mid-February, next year. I believe this means that on some chilly, winter’s day (or days), I’ll have to trudge through slushy Toronto streets to face certain grilling by lawyers working for a corporation with one of the deepest pockets in Canada.
After that’s over with, counsel on both sides have to meet various deadlines for filing paperwork, a process in which many trees will be sacrificed and thousands of pages of legalese will course through the system.
And then, finally, we’ll have the first day in court – sometime at the beginning of May 2013.
That is when the certification hearing will get underway. This hearing will not determine whether or not Bell Mobility is indeed guilty of the wrongs our claim accuses them of committing – that is, using deceptive and unfair practices to deprive vulnerable customers of millions of dollars.
No, the certification hearing decides only whether we (and, roughly estimated, there are some 500,000 of us) can fight this giant corporation together as one, united group (called “a class”), or whether we have to take Bell on individually, filing small claims to get back the funds the company took from each of us.
If I’m perfectly honest, I’d have to say things are not happening as quickly as I’d hoped. But when you enter the nebulous world called the judicial system, you have to accept that it moves at its own particular pace.
And I’ve come to understand that as far as class action lawsuits go, a span of 16 months from my first letter to Bell (warning a suit would be filed if they didn’t fix this problem) to the start of a certification hearing represents a pretty snappy pace.
This timetable is useful, as well, in giving structure to the public education and mobilisation campaign that I am spearheading on this matter; it delineates it and suggests natural and effective timing for milestones and peaks.
The campaign is separate from the class action lawsuit, but runs parallel to it. No one has put me up to this, and such a campaign is not in the rule book on actions to be taken by lead plaintiffs; in fact, there is no rule book or any kind of formal training for named plaintiffs that I’ve come across. All who step forward to front the charge in court on behalf of others who have similarly suffered have to interpret their role and responsibilities as they go along.
In my own case, the work I have been doing over almost a decade as a social justice advocate compels me to take an active, rather than passive role as a lead plaintiff, and to reach out to others to alert them to what is happening within the courts and as to what we must do outside the courts to ensure what Bell has done to us does not become standard operating procedure in Canada.