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


Montreal, May 29, 2017 — The Quebec Superior Court’s decision authorizing a class action lawsuit filed by a group of disability rights advocates to proceed is a giant step forward for civil rights in Quebec that will benefit not only people with disabilities, but all members of discriminated groups, including Indigenous people, women and people of color.

This is CRARR’s reaction to the 27-page decision released late last Friday.

RAPLIQ, a non-profit group that promotes the civil rights of people with disabilities, filed the class action lawsuit in 2015 against the Montreal Transit Authority (STM), the City of Montreal and the Montreal Metropolitan Transport Agency for discrimination and denial of equal access to public transit vehicles and services. Only 11 subway stations out of 68 are equipped with an elevator, and 9 of the 71 suburban train stations are accessible to wheelchairs. While many STM buses are adapted, a 2011 study carried out by RAPLIQ shows that many are still in fact not fully accessible.

The class action lawsuit seeks, among other things, $75,000 moral and punitive damages for each member of the class of disabled people who cannot access public transit (it is estimated that this class includes 20,000 people). It also seeks a court order for full accessibility of all public transit facilities and services within ten years.

CRARR has assisted RAPLIQ since 2011 in civil rights complaints against systemic discrimination in public transit, and in its present class action lawsuit. CRARR considers legal action, especially class action lawsuits, as an effective tool to combat systemic discrimination against people with disabilities, as many cases filed under the American with Disabilities Act in the United States have demonstrated.

CRARR considers class actions to be an instrumental recourse against discrimination for other groups such as people of color and Indigenous people, in light of the increasingly ineffective human rights commissions when it comes to tackling systemic racism.

It should be noted that last April, the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission dismissed complaints filed by numerous members of RAPLIQ against the STM, based on the scurrilous reasoning that the inaccessibility of public transit services is an issue of service quality, not discrimination. The Superior Court’s decision on RAPLIQ’s class action lawsuit is, in many ways, a judicial repudiation of the Commission’s position.

RAPLIQ and its members have filed for a judicial review of the Commission’s decision, with CRARR’s support.

CRARR will actively work in partnership with RAPLIQ in its class action lawsuit. It will also examine further opportunities for class actions to challenge systemic discrimination affecting people of color and immigrants. Priorities involve patterns of practices in areas such as public service and local private business employment, public and commercial services, and education.