Graeme McCreath has filed a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, alleging he was discriminated against by Bluebird Cabs Ltd. (Black Press Media file photo)

B.C. man accuses taxi driver of leaving because he had guide dog

Bluebird Cabs Ltd. application to dismiss complaint denied

A Victoria man who is blind has filed a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, alleging he was discriminated against by a Victoria taxi company.

Graeme McCreath said he was at his doctor’s office in July 2018 with his guide dog when office staff called Bluebird Cabs Ltd. for a cab to take him home.

The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal ruled against Bluebird’s attempt to have the case dismissed and said it would go to a hearing.

According to the decision from the tribunal, the first cab to arrive did not pick up McCreath.

McCreath alleges the driver left after seeing his guide dog. His doctor’s office then called the same company for another cab and McCreath says, in an amendment to his complaint, that the second cab driver “immediately proceeded to scold [him] for not letting them know [he] needed the ‘pet friendly’ cab.” McCreath says the driver chastised him the whole way home and explained the driver of the first cab had an allergy and could not take McCreath.

McCreath alleges Bluebird discriminated against him because services to people with guide dogs are customarily available to the public on the basis of physical disability.

The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal decision says Bluebird denies discriminating against McCreath and applied to have his complaint dismissed, stating McCreath’s complaint has no reasonable prospect of success and is not an arguable contravention of the B.C. Human Rights Code.

Human Rights Tribunal member Pamela Murray, however, denied Bluebird’s application to have the complaint dismissed. In the decision, Murray says McCreath’s amended complaint “meets the standard to allege an arguable contravention of the code.”

READ ALSO: Blind runner wins discrimination case against TC10k

In the decision, Murray says there are also issues about whether the first cab driver saw McCreath and where he was standing when the cab arrived.

In addition, Bluebird did not amend its response to deny what McCreath alleges the second cab driver said to him.

“I cannot find in these circumstances – even after reviewing all the documents the parties provided on the application – that Mr. McCreath’s complaint has no reasonable prospect of success,” Murray says in the decision.

According to the decision, Bluebird’s dispatch and GPS records show the first cab accepted the call to pick up McCreath at 1:06 p.m., arrived at 1:10 p.m., marked the call as a no-show at 1:13 p.m. and left the building two minutes later. Whether or not the first cab driver even saw McCreath is under dispute.

McCreath alleges the driver left after seeing he was travelling with a guide dog. The driver says he did not see anyone who looked like they were waiting for a cab and did not see a guide dog. The driver also says he does not have an allergy and can transport dogs, providing evidence that he has done so before and after the incident, according to the decision.

The decision says Bluebird itself has a policy stating that drivers cannot decline to transport guide dogs unless they have a documented allergy.

READ ALSO: Victoria man challenging human rights tribunal ruling over guide dog discrimination

A second cab was dispatched to the doctor’s office at 1:16 p.m. and picked up McCreath seven minutes later. Bluebird says no calls were made between the first and second cab driver between 1 and 1:30 p.m. that day, the decision says.

Bluebird argues McCreath’s complaint about the first cab driver is “based on conjecture and speculation.”

“In my view, a hearing is necessary to decide what happened and to make credibility findings, in particular about whether the first cab’s driver saw Mr. McCreath,” Murray says in the decision.

In a hearing, the onus will be on McCreath to prove his disability was a factor in alleged adverse impact, like the first cab not picking him up. Only then would the onus shift to Bluebird to prove a defence, the decision says.

READ ALSO: Court rejects discrimination suit from Victoria guide dog owner

Previously, McCreath has filed discrimination cases against Victoria Taxi and the TC10K. His case against the TC10k – a complaint against the race director for not letting him start five minutes early in the race – won and the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal ordered the organization to pay damages and accommodate him.

He lost his case against Victoria Taxi, where McCreath said he and his guide dog were refused transport by a cab driver due to allergies. At the time, another cab was called for McCreath and it arrived within minutes.

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