Montreal

Montreal's inaccessible public transit a charter violation, lawyers claim

Only eight of Montreal's 68 Metro stations are wheelchair accessible, which lawyers argued Tuesday is evidence that the city's transit agencies are violating the rights of people with reduced mobility.

20,000 plaintiffs with reduced mobility seek $1.5 billion in damages from STM and AMT

The Regroupement des activistes pour l'inclusion au Québec's ultimate goal is to see all STM and AMT commuter train lines made accessible. (Charles Contant/CBC)

Only eight of Montreal's 68 Metro stations are wheelchair accessible, which lawyers argued Tuesday is evidence that the city's transit agencies are violating the rights of people with reduced mobility.

The argument was presented as part of an effort by Le Regroupement des activistes pour l'inclusion au Québec (RAPLIQ) to get authorization to launch a request for a class-action lawsuit against the STM and the AMT, Montreal's transit agencies.

The suit also names the City of Montreal and the Quebec Ministry of Transport.

"The Quebec Charter [of Human Rights and Freedoms] dates from '75, the Canadian Charter [of Rights and Freedoms] from '82, " Aymar Missakila, a lawyer for RAPLIQ, told Radio-Canada. 

"In 30, 40 years, the people responsible for the transport network have not thought it necessary to render public transit accessible, which is an important element for the autonomy of people with disabilities."

The suit involves around 20,000 plaintiffs and is seeking up to $75,000 in damages per person, for a total of $1.5 billion.

Linda Gauthier, RAPLIQ member, says it feels like people with reduced mobility are not considered real citizens when it comes to transportation. (Steve Rukavina/CBC News)
Linda Gauthier, president of RAPLIQ, said the request for a class-action suit was initiated out of frustration with complaints that she said have gone nowhere.

"We were sick and fed up with filing complaints at Quebec's human rights commission against STM and AMT because their stations are not accessible to people with disabilities, especially those using wheelchairs," she said.

"It didn't do anything."

The group's ultimate goal is to see all STM and AMT commuter train lines made accessible.

Gauthier said RAPLIQ would accept a 20-year time frame for seeing that happen. She is hoping the judge in the hearing will agree to tour Montreal's Metro system with RAPLIQ, so they can point out its obstacles to people with disabilities.

Tuesday's hearing marked one of the initial steps in seeking authorization for the lawsuit. Gauthier will be deposed later this month at a lawyer's office.   

A decision on whether the lawsuit can go ahead is not likely before October or November, she said. 

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