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Air Canada and WestJet Oppose Equality For Canadians with Disabilities

Once again the Canadian disability community is up against a transportation Goliath. This time it is the tag team of Air Canada and WestJet. These wealthy corporations are using expensive legal tactics to fight the removal of a significant barrier to the mobility of persons with disabilities. Air Canada and WestJet want to keep charging disabled people, who need additional space to accommodate their disabilities, the price of an extra ticket. The airlines are seeking leave to appeal at the Supreme Court of Canada. A Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) decision which ruled that persons with disabilities, who because of their disability require an additional seat or an attendant to assist them with in flight needs not met by flight attendants, will not have to purchase two fares.

The airlines sought, but were denied, leave to appeal the CTA decision at the Federal Court of Appeal. “The airlines are simply stalling implementation of the CTA decision. They are trying to reduce costs at the expense of the equality of Canadians with disabilities,” said Marie White, Chairperson of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD). “We trust that the Supreme Court of Canada, just as they told VIA Rail that they must accommodate persons with disabilities by retrofitting their Renaissance cars, will deny the airlines’ application to appeal,” said White.

CTA is an expert panel responsible for ensuring safe and accessible travel. They are mandated to remove barriers to persons with disabilities. The airlines are using their economic power to delay implementation of a good decision. Canadians with disabilities, who as a group are poorer than their nondisabled counterparts, should not have to repeatedly wage costly legal battles to protect the decisions of expert adjudication panels. Many individual Canadians with disabilities are left wondering– is the administrative law system for transportation broken?

CCD, Canada’s leading cross-disability human rights organization, has been proposing a legislative, rather than a litigious solution: the passage of access regulations by the Federal Government for all modes of transportation in federal jurisdiction. The United States has already taken this measure to ensure access for persons with disabilities. “Access to federally regulated transportation has been eroding for persons with disabilities,” said Pat Danforth, Chair of CCD’s Transportation Committee. “We call on all federal parties to commit to a fully accessible transportation system,” said Danforth.​