British Columbia

Victoria man claims taxi refused him service because he's blind and has a guide dog

A blind man claims a Victoria taxi refused to pick him and his guide dog up, and that a second taxi driver sent by the same company scolded him on his ride home for not warning dispatchers about his disability.

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal will hear 73-year-old's discrimination complaint against Bluebird Cabs

Andrew McCreath alleges a Victoria taxi company denied him service because he is blind and has a guide dog. (Submitted by Marsh McCreath)

A blind man claims a Victoria taxi refused to pick him and his guide dog up, and that a second taxi driver sent by the same company scolded him on his ride home for not warning dispatchers about his disability.

The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has agreed to hear 73-year-old Andrew Graeme McCreath's discrimination complaint over the alleged incident, after denying Bluebird Cabs' application last week to dismiss it.

In the tribunal's reason for decision, McCreath claims the alleged discrimination took place after a doctor's appointment in July 2017.

According to the documents, he asked the receptionist at the doctor's office to call him a taxi, then went outside with his dog to wait for it.

McCreath alleges that the receptionist noticed him still standing outside when the taxi should have already arrived, so she called a second one.

He claims the first taxi driver arrived, saw he was blind and had a guide dog, and cancelled his trip.

"It's quite humiliating," said McCreath, who has been blind for the last 60 years and relies on his guide dog, a German shepherd named Marsh, to help him navigate his surroundings.

A taxi driver is not allowed to refuse service to a customer who is visually impaired and has a certified guide dog, according to the Guide Dog and Service Dog Act.

Bluebird Cabs denies its drivers discriminated against McCreath.

The allegations have neither been proven nor formally heard by the tribunal.

Bluebird Cabs denies its drivers were discriminatory against McCreath and applied to have his complaint dismissed. The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal rejected that application. (Facebook/Bluebird Cabs)

The 1st cab

According to the tribunal's reason for decision, Bluebird's GPS and dispatch records show that the first taxi arrived outside of the doctor's office, waited for three minutes, then marked the fare as a no-show and drove off.

The first driver said he had no idea that the person he was picking up was blind because that information wasn't on the trip profile when he accepted the call, the reason for decision says.

The driver claimed he did not see anyone who looked like they were waiting for a taxi, nor did he remember seeing a guide dog, and that's why he cancelled the trip.

He also provided documents that shows he has taken trips with guide dogs before and after this incident.

But in his complaint, McCreath claims — based on his alleged conversation with the second cab driver — that the first driver did see him and chose to leave.

The 2nd cab

When the second cab arrived, McCreath alleges the driver told him the first cabby had an allergy and that's why he couldn't drive him, according to the tribunal documents.

McCreath also claims the second driver immediately scolded him for not informing Bluebird of his disability and requirements, then chastised him for the entire drive home.

The tribunal documents show Bluebird did not deny what the second driver said, and that no affidavit was submitted by the driver of the second cab.

2015 case favoured driver

During an application for dismissal, the tribunal only considers whether the allegations as stated violate B.C.'s Human Rights Code, and does not consider any defence or alternative theories.

In this case, "the allegations in the complaint go beyond conjecture and speculation and allege an arguable contravention of the code," tribunal member Pamela Murray said in her decision.

The tribunal will now hold a hearing to determine whether McCreath was discriminated against.

It's not the first time McCreath has taken a complaint about a taxi company to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal. In 2015, he filed a complaint against Victoria Taxi for refusing him service because the driver said he had an allergy to dogs.

The tribunal ruled in favour of the driver in that case.