By Victoria Nolan, Head, Stakeholder Relations & Community Engagement
A municipal transit service was recently fined nearly $1,000 under Nova Scotia's Blind Persons' Rights Act for denying services to a man because he was travelling with his guide dog.
Due to a lack of awareness by guide dog handlers and the police, the Act is rarely enforced.
Unfortunately, this legislation hasn't been enacted everywhere, but it does exist in the following provinces – sometimes under a slightly different name:
- British Columbia: Guide Dog and Service Dog Act
- Alberta: Blind Persons' Rights Act
- Ontario: Blind Persons' Rights Act
- Nova Scotia: Blind Persons' Rights Act
- Newfoundland and Labrador: Service Animals Act
In all of these Acts, it is an offence to deny someone access to services and facilities because s/he is blind and travels with a guide dog. Police can investigate complaints under these Acts and – upon summary conviction – the service provider can face a fine of up to $5,000.
Denying access is illegal in all provinces and territories under the provincial/territorial Human Rights Code, however this legislation is enforced by the Human Rights Tribunal, not police. The five provinces listed above have additional legislation which allows for a much swifter response than filing a complaint through the Human Rights Tribunal.