Saturday, December 18, 2010

No Human Rights Enforcement for Transit?

On Friday, I went through an exercise of major frustration. I phoned all over the place trying to find enforcement for a human rights settlement against Kingston Transit that was made in 2006 through the Human Rights Commission.

At this point I have already spent 6 months trying to get the Kingston Transit routes, that were once declared as being “Fully Accessible” back to being that way. But so far, it has been to no avail. For reasons I cannot explain, the transit manager has decided that, because of bus stop design and safety issues, the accessibility of routes can be diminished by simply renaming the routes as “Easier Access” routes.

In the agreement that was won and signed by me in 2006, it was agreed that Route 1 would become fully accessible on, or about, October 2, 2006 and that, as they purchased more buses, more routes were to be declared fully accessible. Further, the agreement stated that they were to include accessibility in the design and planning of new bus stops, and ensure there was proper snow clearance so a wheelchair can get to them.

Well, after many months of making an inquiry here and an inquiry there, I went into overdrive on Friday to try to find a solution. I first of all, thought I would renew my efforts to find a lawyer so I could stop playing guessing games about where to turn. No Go.

The Human Rights legal support centre had already informed me that this was not a Human Rights case; that there had already been a decision made about the accessibility of transit. It was not their job to enforce old settlements.

I called ARCH legal services and then I followed the advice that was on their answering machine. It said I was to call the Legal Aid Services of Ontario and it provided me with a phone number.

I called them and they said they couldn’t take a Human Rights case; that I should call the Pro Bono Lawyers of Ontario, or the Law Society of Upper Canada Lawyer Referral Service. I was then given both of their phone numbers.

The Pro Bono line dead ended, in that the message didn't give me the option to go to something useful that I could follow through with. The Law Society of Upper Canada Lawyer Referral Service gave me the contact info for 1 Human Rights Lawyer in Kingston and 2 who were in Belleville. I was also warned that they may not take the case because I said would need it on a contingency basis. The best I could do was leave a message to describe the situation and then be told that I would get a call back sometime in the New Year.

Due to the uncertainty that these calls left me with, and the fact that I was told that this is an enforcement case not a new Human Rights case, I decided to expand on my field of enquiry.

I changed my focus to look for enforcement of the original agreement instead.

I called the Human Rights Tribunal first because, according to the Human Rights Commission's web site, they no longer work on human rights cases. You can’t even contact them by phone or email anymore. The person who answered the phone at the Human Rights Tribunal asked me for the file number. When I started to give it from the case that was settled in 2006 she cut me short and said we don’t deal with cases that were settled by the Human Rights Commission. I asked her what she recommended I do and she said to call the Human Rights Legal Support centre, the very ones who said they can’t deal with this case because it has already been settled under the terms of the Ontario Human Rights Code.

I have gone full circle AGAIN. By the looks of it, there is no way to break out of this cyclical pattern so I can regain my right to a life. This has been going on for 6 months ever since the manager of Kingston Transit wrote me to say that, due to bus stop design and safety issues about the steepness of the ramp, wheelchair users are recommended to go back to using the [more expensive, and less available] Access Bus on a full time basis. All I want is to afford the cost of taking transit so I can get my cable back and return to eating a more healthy and wholesome diet. I should not be expected to absorb the added cost of taking specialized transit just because Kingston Transit has made some mistakes when designing new bus stops and they have taken the liberty to tell the drivers that they no longer have to pick up a wheelchair if they think the ramp into the bus is too steep due to the lack of a curb.

This whole situation has been made worse by the city’s decision to provide a subsidized bus pass to low-income Kingstonian’s who can use Kingston Transit, but not to those who need to use the Access Bus. This means a qualified adult will pay $44 to get unlimited rides on conventional transit and the people who use the Access Bus will pay somewhere between $150 - $200 per month, if they go out a lot like I do. I don’t think people realize that, because the cash fare is the same for an adult on both services but on conventional transit people can buy multi-ride cards and bus passes which will substantially lower the cost over the long term.

It is surprising to see how many people don’t even realize that people have to pay for the Access Bus. They seem to think it is free. For this reason, I would say that it is clearly obvious that more education about this, and other transit related issues, is clearly needed.

It is incomprehensible how a case can be won and, then because one is disabled and can't work due to the number of barriers, they are now vulnerable to losing accessible service because they are not in a financial position to pay for a lawyer so they can enforce their rights.

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Anonymous said...

This is not legal advice, but I would suggest looking at the Ontario Human Rights Act:

54. Section 45.9 of the new Part IV applies to the enforcement of a settlement that,

(a) was effected by the Commission under the old Part IV before the effective date or during the six-month period referred to in subsection 53 (2); and
(b) was agreed to in writing, signed by the parties and approved by the Commission. 2006, c. 30, s. 10.


45.9 (1) If a settlement of an application made under section 34 or 35 is agreed to in writing and signed by the parties, the settlement is binding on the parties. 2006, c. 30, s. 5.

Consent order
(2) If a settlement of an application made under section 34 or 35 is agreed to in writing and signed by the parties, the Tribunal may, on the joint motion of the parties, make an order requiring compliance with the settlement or any part of the settlement. 2006, c. 30, s. 5.

Application where contravention
(3) If a settlement of an application made under section 34 or 35 is agreed to in writing and signed by the parties, a party who believes that another party has contravened the settlement may make an application to the Tribunal for an order under subsection (8),

(a) within six months after the contravention to which the application relates; or
(b) if there was a series of contraventions, within six months after the last contravention in the series. 2006, c. 30, s. 5.

Late applications
(4) A person may apply under subsection (3) after the expiry of the time limit under that subsection if the Tribunal is satisfied that the delay was incurred in good faith and no substantial prejudice will result to any person affected by the delay. 2006, c. 30, s. 5.


wheelchairdemon said...

I'm sending you a huge thank you. I found the Form 18, filled it out, and have sent it off.

It is shocking that, after 6 months of searching through the "correct" channels I was told the enforcement couldn't be done.

It makes you wonder where this world is coming to. It also makes one sincerely APPRECIATE the kindness of strangers!!

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Have you tried contacting any of the local TV stations? I'm from Ohio, but a quick check found the "Community Watch" on CKWS - perhaps they'd consider doing a story?

wheelchairdemon said...

I chose not to highlight the issue through the media because I thought reason would prevail.

It was only out of frustration that I wrote this Blog. Thanks to the person who read this Blog and then quoted the law, I have now filled out and sent in the appropriate form to the Human Rights Tribunal.

At this point, I think it is best to let the Tribunal do their job.

If they fail to find a resolve, THEN it will go to the media. I will not only take the story to the Kingston media, but I will share it right across the country and quite possibly, to the UN.

I mention the UN because Canada just signed onto the International Declaration for the Rights of Disabled Persons.

By signing on, they are now obligated to fulfill certain responsibilities to guarantee the human rights of disabled persons.

Canada might be succeeding at improving the quality of the life for the disabled in other provinces, but in Ontario, they're failing miserably. They're not enforcing current law and the new standards that will soon be released, will actually diminish our rights, if it is released the way it was worded for the public review.

Case in point, the new standards do not address the design of the bus stops to ensure this safety issue will never happen again.