Fondé en 1983 --Unis pour la diversité et l'égalité raciale


Montreal, December 8, 2011 --- On the eve of the International Human Rights Day, eleven handicapped citizens are calling on the Société de transport de Montréal (Montreal Transit Corporation) to provide public transport services that are accessible to all, as well as claiming $20,000 each in damages for discrimination.

At a press conference held today at the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission's office, CRARR and the Regroupement des activistes pour l'inclusion au Québec (RAPLIQ) lodged complaints on behalf of these individuals with the Québec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission. This case about disadvantaged disabled people’s access to the Montréal public transport system is a historic first for human rights in Québec. As well as moral and punitive damages, the victims and complainants are also demanding a service equity plan to improve wheelchair access to public transport.

There are both systemic and systematic hurdles to overcome:

  • The Montréal metro system currently has seven stations with wheelchair access, out of a total of 68. Less than one new station a year is adapted for wheelchairs – an unacceptable rate of progress. At the current rate, it will be 2085 before all the stations in the network have wheelchair access, by which time all the victims involved in this case will have died. Even if they live close to metro stations, many are unable to use the metro to travel to their place of work or study;
  • Some 33% of buses are not accessible to wheelchairs according to a recent RAPLIQ study, because the buses are not sufficiently upgraded or maintained;
  • The adapted transport service often infringes the private life and freedom of its users. Furthermore, the victims have noted delays, inappropriate driver behaviour and inefficient telephone correspondence.
  • RAPLIQ says Québec is lagging significantly behind in terms of wheelchair access to public transport. The 2005 Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act aimed to make the province accessible to disabled people before 2025. The goal is to remove the obstacles stopping disabled people from living independent lives as well as the need to bring down one hurdle at a time.

    According to RAPLIQ President Linda Gauthier, “I hope that the people responsible for public transport will understand the need for a fast response, particularly in the context of inclusion, equality and the respect for our rights as citizens. It all boils down to our right.”

    “People with disabilities cannot continue to wait for decades. Our Ontarian and American cousins are currently picking up the gauntlet. There’s no reason for Québec not to do the same”, she added.

    CRARR Executive Director Fo Niemi adds: “We’re supporting this cause because we need to stand alongside all those fighting against systemic discrimination and fight for equal access to all disadvantaged groups. The cost to the marginalized disabled people, who come from different social and ethnic backgrounds, is greater than the cost of adapting our public transport.”

    In the US, disabled people have, in recent years, launched class actions under the American with Disabilities Act against transport authorities in New York, Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles. As a result, the authorities in those cities have been forced to adapt their vehicles and services.

    A number of domestic and international laws recognize the right to so-called regular public transport, including the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Loi assurant l'exercice des droits des personnes handicapées en vue de leur intégration scolaire, professionnelle et sociale and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

    CRARR and RAPLIQ encourage all persons with disabilities who face barriers in accessing public transit services in Montreal to file civil rights complaints. For more information, contact: