Rights tribunal to hear discrimination complaint from blind cab passenger

A discrimination complaint leveled against Bluebird Cabs by a blind passenger will be heard by the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, after the company’s application to have it dismissed was denied.

The case involves Graeme McCreath, who uses a guide dog. A cab was called for him on July 25, 2018, after he had finished an appointment at his doctor’s office.

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“The first cab to arrive did not pick Mr. McCreath up,” said the tribunal decision by Pamela Murray. “Mr. McCreath alleges the driver left after seeing his guide dog.”

A second cab was ordered, but McCreath said that the driver “immediately proceeded to scold me for not letting them know I needed the pet-friendly cab he was driving,” Murray said in her decision.

“For almost the whole way home this driver chastised me, explaining … the driver of [the first cab] had an allergy and could not take me.”

McCreath claimed he was discriminated against based on his physical disability, and found the way he was treated by the second driver “upsetting and offensive,” Murray wrote.

Bluebird denied any discrimination, but Murray wrote that the allegation met the standard of an “arguable contravention” of the Human Rights Code.

McCreath said in an interview said he expects it could take up to a year for a hearing to go ahead.

“It’s rather unfortunate that we even have to go to the tribunal.”

He said he knows of several blind people in other cities who have had difficulty with taxis while using guide dogs.

“Don’t get me wrong, there’s some really good taxi drivers and really nice people.”

Bluebird could not be reached for comment.

Murray wrote that there is a dispute as to whether the driver of the first cab saw McCreath. The driver said he didn’t see anyone who appeared to waiting for a cab or who had a guide dog, and left after three minutes.

Documented evidence showed he had picked up people with dogs before and after the incident.

McCreath said he was outside and clearly visible as he waited for the first cab, Murray wrote.

She wrote that Bluebird alleges McCreath assumed or speculated that his disability was the reason the first cab didn’t pick him up.

“The overriding question for me is to whether this complaint deserves the time and resources to have a hearing or whether Bluebird has persuaded me the complaint has no reasonable prospect of success,” Murray wrote. “In my view, a hearing is necessary to decide what happened and to make credibility findings, in particular about whether the first cab’s driver saw Mr. McCreath.”

McCreath made a previous complaint to the tribunal against Victoria Taxi in 2014 after a driver said he had an allergy and refused to pick up McCreath and his dog. Another Victoria Taxi in the area picked him up in short order.

The tribunal dismissed the complaint, saying there was a reasonable justification for what happened.

The matter went to the B.C. Court of Appeal in 2017 and was dismissed there, as well.

McCreath is also involved in a complaint with the City of Victoria that says bike lanes make access to some Pandora Avenue bus stops unsafe for people who are blind or have visual impairments.

In 2013, the tribunal upheld a complaint that allowed him to have an early start in the Times Colonist 10K, which he has run with a sighted friend.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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