(ST. JOHN’S – Sept. 3, 2019) The CNIB Foundation is calling for an end to discrimination against Canadians who depend on guide dogs for mobility, safety and increased independence.
In all of Canada's 10 provinces and three territories, legislation prohibits discriminating against a person with a disability who is working with a guide dog. Discrimination includes denial of access to any premises to which the public would normally have access.
"Despite it being illegal to deny access or refuse service, it happens every day – especially in taxis, restaurants, hotels and stores," says John Rafferty, CNIB's president and CEO. "Today, we're asking businesses to open their doors to Canadians with guide dogs. Not only is it the right thing to do, it's the law."
Legislation varies from province to province, however in all provinces it contravenes the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms to deny a blind person accompanied by a guide dog access to a federally owned or regulated place or service.
"Since 1992, it has been illegal to discriminate against blind individuals who are accompanied by a guide dog – or deny them access or service," says Anne Malone, who depends on her guide dog named Cheryl. “Yet nearly 30 years later, it’s still happening.”
In April 2013, Ms. Malone was refused taxi service by three cab drivers in one night, all of whom worked for the same cab company. After filing a complaint with the Human Rights Commission, Ms. Malone was awarded $5,000, and the cab company provided sensitivity training for all of its drivers.
The rights of people living with sight loss are covered under the Service Animal Act. If refused service or denied access, guide dog handlers in Newfoundland and Labrador should contact the Human Rights Commission. If found guilty, the person who violates the Act (Service Animal Act) may receive a fine of up to $500, or face imprisonment for no more than 30 days.
The CNIB Foundation is launching a campaign to raise awareness about the rights and legal responsibilities of business owners across Canada, and educate the public on the rights of guide dog teams, as well as best practices for when interacting with guide dog teams. For information on how to support guide dogs in your community, visit guidedogchampions.ca.
About CNIB Foundation
CNIB is a non-profit organization driven to change what it is to be blind today. We deliver innovative programs and powerful advocacy that empower people impacted by blindness to live their dreams while tearing down barriers to inclusion. Our work is powered by a network of volunteers, donors and partners from coast to coast to coast. To learn more or get involved, visit cnib.ca or cnibguidedogs.ca.