[nfbwatlk] Comment from Mary Ellen, please

Mary ellen gabias at telus.net
Tue Mar 24 03:09:51 UTC 2015

Thanks, Debbie, for forwarding Heather's comments to us.  I'll get in touch with her because her concerns mirror ours

Several years ago, as service dogs for all sorts of people with all sorts of disabilities began insisting on their right to access to places of public accommodations, confusion reigned in many quarters.  In an attempt to resolve that confusion, and most of all to put teeth in the protections that are currently in the law but very rarely enforced, the British Columbia legislature embarked on a multi year fact finding effort to upgrade the law.  CFB commented on the questions the legislature asked, but it was clear from the questions themselves that the main focus of the legislature was to create a certification process to catch phony service dog teams, not to ensure nondiscriminatory treatment of handlers accompanied by guide dogs.  This focus seems to be promoted primarily by the service and guide dog schools and by the cross disability umbrella organization in the province.

Put simply, an effort to strengthen access rights has been hijacked by the schools and the cross disability umbrella group, and turned into a means of sorting out the various types of service dogs and giving the schools an almost total monopoly over what dog is legitimate and what dog is a phony.  Instead of concentrating on the person who has the right to access, this bill concentrates on the training of the dog.  Suddenly our rights are the dog's rights.

For example, because puppies in training need socialization, this new law proposes to afford puppy walkers the same access rights in public places and on public transportation that are afforded to blind people with working guide dogs.  It sounds fine on the surface.  How can a dog become a guide if it doesn't have experience in public places?  But does a puppy walker need to take the dog into every restaurant, or would socializing it in a few willing restaurants suffice?  If the rights of the puppy walker are treated as synonymous with our rights, doesn't that trivialize ours?

As for certification, Heather is dead on accurate.  Now, if there's an incident, the burden of proof is on the entity refusing access.  If this law is passed, the burden of proof is on the owner of the guide dog.

The proposed law does include strata properties; condos and townhouses run by strata corporations were previously not included.  That's one positive thing, perhaps the only positive thing.  Although the fines are increased, I'm still reading the proposed bill to understand whether the enforcement mechanism has changed.  Currently, anyone experiencing discrimination gets relief by taking the case to the Huuman Rights tribunal.  The original intent for blind people of upgrading the law was to permit police to enforce the law and issue tickets on the spot.  There's talk of that happening, but it appears from a cursory reading that that change would be left to regulation.  The government is loath to engage in very much rule making, so if it's not in the law, it very likely won't happen.  The same is true of anyone with a privately trained dog who wants to get that dog certified.  Regulations are supposed to allow for that, but until regulations are passed, only school trained dogs can be certified.  The law is unclear about the status of guide dog teams visiting the province.  One proponent suggested that there be an on line application for temporary certification; without it, out of province teams are out of luck.  It's not clear that such a dire scheme would actually be put into effect, but the very fact that the head of the BC Guide Dog school could seriously suggest it is chilling.

I've taken to calling the proposed law the Guide Dog Industry Income Protection and Social Control Act.

Unless significant changes are made in this bill, its passage will set guide dog users back.

-----Original Message-----
From: nfbwatlk [mailto:nfbwatlk-bounces at nfbnet.org] On Behalf Of Mike Freeman via nfbwatlk
Sent: Monday, March 23, 2015 7:19 PM
To: Debby Phillips; NFB of Washington Talk Mailing List
Subject: Re: [nfbwatlk] Comment from Mary Ellen, please

There's discussion of it on the CFB list. 

Mike Freeman

> On Mar 23, 2015, at 17:54, Debby Phillips via nfbwatlk <nfbwatlk at nfbnet.org> wrote:
> Hi Mary Ellen, have you seen this bill? I think it really sucks, for many reasons that ow won't go in to here.    Debby P.S.  Will you be in Florida this summer?
> ---- Original Message ------
> From: Heather Hutchison via nagdu <nagdu at nfbnet.org
> Subject: [nagdu] Proposed Service Dog Legislation in British Columbia, 
> Canada Date sent: Mon, 23 Mar 2015 15:03:15 -0700
> Hey all,
> Just wanting opinions on this proposed legislation in British Columbia, Canada, where I live (article below).  I am currently between dogs but am quite concerned about a number of things, to the point where if this legislation passes I will have to think very hard about whether or not  to get another guide.  I am not thrilled about the requirement that all dogs come from accredited schools, but what concerns me even more is that from my understanding, a handler will be forced to present some sort of government issued ID to gain access to any public facility with their dog.  This seems like a violation of privacy and human rights (especially if the handler’s name and info is on this ID), it isn’t reasonable in my opinion to require something of a service dog handler that is not required of anyone else.  I don’t like the idea of giving anyone who works at a business the right to be the service dog police, and the stress of having to defend my choice of mobility aid at every turn and prove I’m not a fraud makes me think I might just stick with the cane.
> I was really hoping this legislation would be much closer to the ADA, sigh.
> Thoughts?
> -Heather
> Fake ID is going to the dogs — rather too much, as it turns out.  But a proposed B.C.  law aims to stop people labelling dogs without proper training as service dogs, by creating government issued dog ID and a provincial registry.
> "It'll be a bit like a service dog driving licence if you like," Bill Thornton, the CEO of BC and Alberta Guide Dogs, an organization that trains service dogs, told Daybreak South's Chris Walker.
> Service dogs don't just include seeing eye dogs trained to help people who are visually impaired.  They're also trained to help people in wheelchairs, people with hearing impairments, autism or to act as seizure alert dogs.
> Thornton said over the past decade it has become easier to buy fake service dog tags and jackets online.
> The identification tags allow the dog to accompany its owner to places dogs aren't usually allowed — such as restaurants or on public transit.
> Thornton said he's seeing more and more situations involving fake service dog IDs, but it's difficult for most people to deal with.
> "It is an awkward circumstance for someone to challenge someone who purports to have a disability and they've got a jacket on the dog — it's very difficult and often those folks behave very poorly when challenged," he said.
> He said the new law would make things better for everyone, including people who legitimately need a service dog.
> "They'll be able to check for the … licence and if you have it then you're entitled to go in, and if you don't have it you're not entitled to come in with the dog.
> The new Guide Dog and Service Dog Act would also standardize training and certification in the province.  It has passed its first reading and is expected to be implemented in the fall.
> http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/fake-service-dog-i
> d-brought-to-heel-by-proposed-b-c-law-1.3003532
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