The CNIB (Canadian National Institute for the Blind) 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 the Guide Dog and Service Dog Act was introduced British Columbia, it has been illegal to discriminate against blind individuals who are accompanied by a guide dog – or deny them access or service," says Tommy Leung of Vancouver, who depends on his black lab named McBeth. "Yet it's still happening."
Mr. Leung had made plans with seven other friends to go out for bubble tea. When he arrived at the restaurant, employees denied him entry citing a no dogs allowed policy. Even after he and his friends explained that McBeth was a trained guide dog, the employees refused to allow Mr. Leung to enter.
If refused service or denied access, guide dog handlers in British Columbia should call the police. If convicted, the person who violates the Act (Guide Dog and 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.