[nfbwatlk] press release concerning proposed guide dog legislation in British Columbia
gabias at telus.net
Sat Mar 28 00:56:04 UTC 2015
Bill 17 Barking Up the Wrong Tree
Bill 17 as currently written would shift the focus from protecting access
rights for people using guide dogs to catching impostors at the expense of
law-abiding blind individuals, according to the Canadian Federation of the
"Taxis often won't take us," says Graeme McCreath of Victoria, who has
frequently been refused service because he is accompanied by his guide dog
Adrienne. " We wanted the province to clarify and strengthen enforcement of
our access rights. Instead, they're forcing us to jump through more
bureaucratic hoops and creating the false presumption that we are
perpetrating fraud until we prove otherwise.
Oriano Belusic, first vice-president of the Canadian Federation of the Blind
and a guide dog user for more than 35 years, is waiting to see what the
legislature does before deciding whether to replace his dog, Hillie, who
recently died. "I love the speed and ease of movement I have always had
with my dogs, but it's not worth it if every shopkeeper, restauranteur and
cab driver can demand to see my credentials. Current law presumes I have a
right to go about my business. Bill 17 will force me to prove, over and
over again, that I have rights. Proponents say certification is like a
driver's license, but it's not; the police only ask to see a license when a
driver appears to be doing something illegal. This bill would mean that
anybody could demand to see my certification before they even let me in the
The Federation estimates there are approximately 80 guide dogs in the
province. "We haven't encountered problems with people pretending to be
blind in order to bring phony guide dogs into public places," Belusic
states. "For guide dog users, this proposal is a draconian solution to a
Dr. Paul Gabias, a blind university professor in Kelowna who has trained six
guide dogs, knows certification offers no protection for the public against
badly behaved dogs. "Certification only proves that a team worked correctly
on the day the certification was issued. I've seen people from fully
accredited schools who have ruined dogs. I've seen dogs whose work has
deteriorated because of trauma. I've also seen privately trained dogs that
have worked beautifully. The law already requires that dogs be kept under
control at all times and permits any business to remove a badly behaved
"Why is the province punishing us for the behavior of impostors without
disabilities?" asks McCreath. "Why not make it an offense to misrepresent a
pet as a service dog, require community service for violators, and leave our
access rights intact? That's simpler, much cheaper, and far more just than
creating a new bureaucracy."
Gabias agrees. "People determined to commit fraud will find ways to fake
certification documents," he says. "I would much rather tolerate a few bad
actors than impinge upon access rights."
"There are some very fine access improvements in Bill 17," says Belusic.
"Even so, if the focus isn't changed from catching phonies to protecting
blind people, we'll be better off if it does not pass."
First Vice President
Canadian Federation of the Blind
Oriano at cfb.ca
andrewmccreath at shaw.ca
Paul Gabias, Ph.D.
pgabias at gabiaswellness.com
About the Canadian Federation of the Blind
The Canadian Federation of the Blind (CFB) is a grassroots nonprofit
organization made up of blind people working together and supporting one
another to improve the quality of lives of the blind in Canada. The CFB's
goal is not only to change and improve the quality of blind Canadians'
lives, but also to educate sighted Canadians by changing the negative stigma
that society has attached to blindness.
The CFB is unique because it involves blind people teaching other blind
people, builds on the individual strengths of each blind person, and teaches
that blindness does not have to define an individual.
The organization consists of members from a diverse range of cultural and
professional backgrounds, ages and ethnicities, and has a wealth of
experience and information about blindness to share with the public.
CFB programs are determined by membership vote and directed by an elected
executive. All voting members, including all members of the executive, are
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