The new taxi bill of rights for Metro Vancouver introduced earlier this week could pit the rights people who rely on guide dogs against the rights of drivers whose religious beliefs prohibit them from contact with the animals, a Muslim leader said.

Among the provisions listed in the taxi bill of rights announced on Wednesday by Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon are the right for passengers to travel with a guide dog and a new enhanced trip refusal regulation that could see drivers fined $288.

That combination could mean problems for some Muslim drivers who believe it's against their religion to come into contact with dogs, said Aziz Khaki, the vice-chair of the Muslim Canadian Federations.

"It's a clear, clear case of discrimination and insensitivity on behalf of the authorities to try to punish the person without understanding the person's own belief," Khaki told CBC News on Thursday.

When faced with this dilemma, Muslim drivers who believe their religion prohibits them from coming into contact with dogs should be able to call another taxi for the passenger without facing a fine, said Khaki.

"You cannot say, just because they refuse it, he should be fined. You should respect the belief of a person. Whether right or wrong, it is his interpretation."

Jason Gratl, the president of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, agrees that the Ministry of Transportation should revisit the new policy.

"It wouldn't take much for the government to include an exception for religious or possibly medical issues associated with the passage of dogs," said Gratl.

The taxi bill of rights aims to improve safety and service for taxi passengers are now required to display the bill of rights on a decal posted on the rear passenger window.

The taxi bill of rights states taxi passengers have the right to:

  • Be picked up and transported to their stated destination by any available on duty taxi driver
  • Pay the posted rate by cash, or accepted credit card or TaxiSaver voucher.
  • A courteous driver who provides assistance, if requested.
  • Travel with an assistance dog or portable mobility aid.
  • A taxi that is clean, smoke free and in good repair.
  • Direct the route, or expect the most economical route.
  • A quiet atmosphere, upon request.
  • A detailed receipt, when requested.

And taxi drivers are required to obey all laws. They do have the right to refuse to transport a passenger:

  • To avoid contravening a law or condition of licence.
  • To protect the driver's, or any passenger's, health or safety.
  • If the passenger is acting in an offensive manner.
  • If the passenger refuses to provide a deposit, if requested.