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


Montreal, April 11, 2017 — The Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission’s highly disturbing decision, which dismissed a number of complaints of discrimination in public transit filed by disabled riders, has created a negative precedent for the fight against systemic discrimination and in favor of reasonable accommodation in Quebec.

This was CRARR’s position at a press conference held today by RAPLIQ, a disabled rights advocacy group.

RAPLIQ strongly criticized the Commission for rendering the decision, which addressed the 17 complaints filed by the group in 2011 on behalf of its members, against the Montreal Transit Authority (MTA). CRARR supported RAPLIQ in 2011 in preparing these complaints.

A RAPLIQ study showed that in 2011, only 11 of the 68 subway stations in Montreal were accessible and that there were many recurrent problems of inaccessibility for both regular and adapted public transit vehicles, such as special ramps on buses that did not work and many buses lacking adapted means to make them accessible to people on wheelchairs. These obstacles prevented disabled riders from enjoying the flexibility in public transit, which many non-disabled riders take for granted.

In the Commission’s view, this evidence of systemic exclusion did not suffice. The Commission concluded, in its decision made in January 2017 and transmitted to the parties in March, that these disabled riders’ complaints had to do more with “service quality” than accessibility, and that the MTA did “adopt measures of reasonable accommodation, to the point of facing excessive constraints, to ensure transport for people with limited mobility.”

According to RAPLIQ, a position shared entirely by CRARR, the Commission made a major error by omitting any consideration of the effects of pure and simple exclusion on disabled riders, which far exceed the notion of poor “service quality.”

“Before qualifying the MTA’s reasonable accommodation measures, the Commission should have ruled on the question of whether and how each rider had been discriminated and deprived of access to public transit, which it didn’t do,” said Didier Chelin, a law intern at CRARR.

“The Commission had sidestepped the standards set out by the Supreme Court in its Via Rail decision in 2007, and in its Bombardier decision in 2017, in so doing, it justified the MTA’s position instead of RAPLIQ’s. This is indeed a precedent-setting decision that will be harmful to people with disabilities who have a right to reasonable accommodation, ” added Mr. Chelin.

In addition to the preoccupation with the service quality approach to address complaints of systemic discrimination, CRARR was particularly concerned with the manner in which the Commission interpreted reasonable accommodation. It noted that during the five-year investigation, the Commission did not retain independent and objective expertise to evaluate technical and financial data provided by the MTA, in order to determine whether the measures that were adopted were effectively adequate in reducing the lack of access to MTA buses and metro stations.

“The Commission seems to content itself with technical budget information and action plans provided by the STM and the Transport Ministry to determine the validity of the MTA’s reasonable accommodation defense,” Mr. Chelin noted.

CRARR noted the fact that the decision was made by the Complaints Committee during the January 19, 2017 session, when there was only one Human Rights Commissioner (Pascale Fournier) in place, the other four positions being vacant. It is thus not known whether the latter participated in the deliberation of the Committee that decides on complaints (which is made up of three Commissioners). The other Commissioners in office (Gilles Fortin, Martial Giroux, Isa Iasenza, Jocelyne Myre, Camil Picard and Bruno Sioui) are all Youth Rights Commissioners (see

It should also be noted that it was at this same session that the Complaints Committee reached a highly debatable decision to dismiss a complaint filed by CRARR regarding citizenship-based discrimination in the Professional Syndicates Act. The Supreme Court held in 1989 that discrimination based on citizenship is illegal and unconstitutional.

“We need commissioners who have proven competencies in human rights, who know case law on equality, and who make decisions on the basis of their expertise, not commissioners who merely rubber-stamp legal opinions from in-house counsels,” said CRARR Executive Director Fo Niemi.

Faced with a string of questionable decisions from the Commission in recent months, CRARR is calling on the Commission to reveal the names of commissioners who sit on Complaints committees to make decisions, as a way to promote the Commission’s transparency, Commissioners’ accountability, and the integrity of the adjudication process.

CRARR will support RAPLIQ in filing for a judicial review of the decision and rally other disability right organizations outside Quebec to intervene.