British Columbia

Blind couple, guide dogs denied service by both Kamloops, B.C., taxi companies

A couple visiting Kamloops, B.C., from the U.S. say the two local cab companies in the city discriminated against them by refusing them and their guide dogs service.

Some drivers said larger cab was needed, allergies prevented them from transporting dogs

Marsha and Victor Marques said they were refused service by cab drivers four out of the eight times they required a taxi while visiting Kamloops, B.C., in November, 2017. (Victor Marques)

Victor Marques and his wife Marsha are both blind.

They were visiting Kamloops, B.C., on the weekend of Nov. 25, when they said they were refused service multiple times by both of the city's taxi companies, Yellow Cabs and Kami Cabs, because drivers didn't want their guide dogs in the cab.

"We're not obligated to tell the dispatcher that we have dogs," Marques said.  "They are supposed to, by law, pick us up."

According to the B.C. government, under the Guide Dog and Service Dog Act, certified dog and handler teams have the same rights as people not accompanied by dogs and cannot be denied access to taxis

Even so, in October 2017, the B.C. Supreme Court rejected a complaint about a taxi driver refusing service to a blind man and his guide dog, claiming he had allergies. The court said allergies were a valid and reasonable justification for the discrimination.

The couple said they were refused service four out of the eight times they called for a taxi during their three days in town.

Marques said one driver told them that in order to transport two people and two dogs, they would need a van taxi. Another told him he was allergic to dogs and could not take them in his vehicle.

Victor and Marsha Marques with their guide dogs Popcorn and David. (Victor Marques)

"Either a very disproportionately high number of cab drivers have allergies to dogs or they're using it as a cover up," Marsha said.

When the couple was headed to the airport on the day they were to fly out of Kamloops, Marques said one cab company dispatcher said they had contacted all seven of the cabs in service at the time, and none of them wanted to take the couple and their dogs.

A representative from Kami Cabs said refusing a ride because of a guide dog is unacceptable behaviour for its drivers and he has followed up with the Marques family about their concerns. 

Abdul Rasheed, the president of Yellow Cabs, said as long as a customer lets the dispatcher know they have a dog or multiple dogs with them, they can send a driver that can accommodate the animals. He said Yellow Cabs does have drivers who have allergies to animals, but the company takes people and their pets around town every day. 

"We never have had this problem before," he said.

Marques said that if a driver is "medically fragile" perhaps driving a taxi is not a suitable profession.

He said if the cab companies do take action on this issue, he'd like to see dispatchers matching customers up with a driver who can accommodate their needs

"I would like to see us not necessarily being flagged as a guide dog user or anything like that but being matched up with someone immediately and getting the same level of service as everyone else," he said.

Not a problem with ride hailing companies

Marques' wife, Marsha, said in Grand Rapids, Mich. where they live, they don't have these kinds of problems, because they have access to ride hailing companies like Uber and Lyft.

"Uber and Lyft drivers seem to be very receptive to having dogs in their vehicles," she said.The longest we've ever had to wait for Uber and Lyft is 10 minutes. Some [drivers] even have treats in their cars for the dogs."