(WINNIPEG – September 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.
"In 1987, the Human Rights Code was introduced in Manitoba, making it illegal to discriminate or deny access or service to Manitobans who are blind or partially sighted and accompanied by a guide dog," says Tracy Garbutt of Winnipeg, who travels with a black lab named Marian. "Yet 32 years later, it's still happening."
Tracy Garbutt has had many positive experiences while travelling around Manitoba with his new guide dog, Marian. However, Garbutt feels more education is still needed, especially among restaurants and fast food establishments. “Often, staff are still unaware that guide dogs and guide dog handlers have the right to access any area that is accessible to the public.”
If refused service or denied access, guide dog handlers in Manitoba should call the Human Rights Commission to file a complaint. A member of the Human Rights Adjudication Panel can issue remedies, such as requiring the establishment to issue an apology, attend human rights training, or pay a penalty for damages.
In addition to the Human Rights Code, the Service Animals Protection Act, introduced into law in 2008, makes it an offence to touch, feed, impede or interfere with a service animal without consent. Fines of up to $5,000 can be issued for first time offences.
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 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.
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