(HALIFAX – 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 1989, when the Blind Persons’ Rights Act was introduced in Nova Scotia, it has been illegal to discriminate against blind individuals who are accompanied by a guide dog – or deny them access or service," says Shelley Adams of Halifax, who depends on a black lab named Pogo. "Yet 30 years later, it's still happening."
In September 2018, Ms. Adams was refused taxi service at Halifax Stanfield International Airport when she arrived home from a business trip shortly after midnight. The taxi driver claimed to have an allergy to dogs but did not have documentation on file.
If refused service or denied access, guide dog handlers in Nova Scotia should call the police. A complaint can also be filed with the Human Rights Commission. If convicted, the person who violates the Acts (Blind Persons’ Rights Act, Human Rights Act, Service Dog Act) may receive a fine of up to $3,000.
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.