In British Columbia, rights of access for guide dog users is governed by two primary Provincial statutes; the BC Guide Animal Act and the BC Human Rights Code. Depending on circumstances, guide dog teams also have rights of access when requesting taxi service in the Metro Vancouver area.
In summary, the BC Guide Animal Act – 1990, revised 1996, Chapter 177 states:
Under Section 2 (1) – A person with a disability accompanied by a guide animal has the same rights, privileges and obligations as a person not accompanied by an animal.
Under Section 2 (2) – In particular, a person with a disability accompanied by a guide animal may, in the same manner as would a person not accompanied by an animal, enter and use an accommodation, conveyance, eating place, lodging place or any other place to which the public is invited or has access so long as the guide animal is:
- (a) prevented from occupying a seat in a public conveyance or eating place, and
- (b) held by a leash or harness.
Under Section 3 – A person must not interfere with the exercise of a right or privilege under section 2 or charge a fee for a guide animal accompanying a person with a disability. In other words, no person can refuse to serve or deny access to a person with a disability who is accompanied by a guide dog. Furthermore, an additional charge may not be levied against the guide dog team simply because of the dog’s presence.
Under Section 4 (2) – (2) A person must not:
- (a) deny to a person with a disability a residential premises advertised or otherwise represented as available for occupancy by a tenant, or
- (b) impose a term or condition on a person with a disability for the tenancy of a residential premises if that term or condition discriminates because of the disability or because the person with the disability intends to keep a guide animal in the residential premises.
Subsection 4 (2) does not apply if the advertisement or representation specifies occupancy of the rental unit may entail sharing sleeping, bathroom or cooking facilities in the space with a person from another family.
Under Section 7 (1) – A person with a disability may apply to the minister (of the Solicitor General or his designate) for a certificate to use as evidence that section 2 (of this ACT) applies. However, the identification card issued to graduates of accredited guide dog schools is evidence of the special training the dogs have received and is generally accepted as such.
Under Section 8 – Anyone who unlawfully discriminates against the rights of a dog guide user is guilty of an offense and upon conviction may be punished by a fine not to exceed $200.
Guide dog teams in British Columbia are also afforded rights of access under a second and most powerful piece of legislation. In summary, the BC Human Rights Code – RSBC 1996, CHAPTER 210 states, in part :
Under Section 3 – 3 The purposes of this Code are as follows:
- (a) to foster a society in British Columbia in which there are no impediments to full and free participation in the economic, social, political and cultural life of British Columbia;
- (b) to promote a climate of understanding and mutual respect where all are equal in dignity and rights;
- (c) to prevent discrimination prohibited by this Code;
- (d) to identify and eliminate persistent patterns of inequality associated with discrimination prohibited by this Code;
- (e) to provide a means of redress for those persons who are discriminated against contrary to this Code.
Under Section 8 (1) A person must not, without a bona fide and reasonable justification,
- (a) deny to a person or class of persons any accommodation, service or facility customarily available to the public, or
- (b) discriminate against a person or class of persons regarding any accommodation, service or facility customarily available to the public because of the race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex or sexual orientation of that person or class of persons.
Guide dog teams who are requesting taxi service in the Metro Vancouver area are also afforded rights of access under the Taxi Bill of Rights. This ACT calls for penalties of two hundred eighty eight ($288.00) for refusal to transport a person with a disability accompanied by a guide dog.