Human Rights Commission calls STM's lack of handicapped accessibility "poor service"
Published Tuesday, April 11, 2017 2:36PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, April 11, 2017 7:38PM EDT
A group fighting for the rights of disabled Montrealers is criticizing a recent ruling by the Quebec Commission of Human Rights that said the STM’s lack of accessibility for the handicapped was not discrimination.
The complaint, filed by 17 people with disabilities in 2011, alleged that there was a lack of accessible metro stations and that many of the city’s buses lacked working ramps.
A decision was finally handed down in January, saying that the while the STM had offered poor service, it was not a human rights violation.
Linda Gauthier, president of disabled rights group RAPLIQ, said she still believes she, and others who suffer from disabilities, were the subject of discrimination.
"We received many complaints from people with disabilities saying that they couldn't board buses because of the ramps or they were living near a metro station, working, or going to university but none of them were accessible," she said.
"Would you like to stand on the corner in -25, not being able to board the third or even fourth bus? We work, we have lives, like everybody else. We go to university, we have social lives, we pay taxes. We pay the same price when we buy our pass, so that's discrimination."
RAPLIQ vice president Steven Laperriere said that many of the buses in the city that are equipped with ramps are not properly maintained, making life even harder for those who rely on public transportation.
"In about 40 per cent of street buses, the ramps are defective and cannot be opened for people to board the buses," he said. "That's a problem that's very easy to settle. It's not like retrofitting a metro station. It's easy to do and it's not being done. Why?"
Gauthier said the decision has left her disappointed.
"We trusted the Human Rights Commission. That it would maybe take a couple of years but would be in our favour," she said. "In the middle of 2013 or 2014, I had some doubts, that the person doing the investigation didn't understand discrimination. They bought everything the STM said in their explanation."
Fo Niemi, executive director of Centre on Research-Action on Race Relations, which helped file the complaint, said they plan on fighting the decision.
“In this case, the Human Rights Commission did not even say all these disabled public transport users were discriminated against. They jumped right away to say the STM did all the reasonable accommodation required and therefore there is no discrimination. This creates a very dangerous precedent where the rights of people with disabilities in this province and we absolutely believe this case should go for judicial review and should be reversed by the court.”
A spokesperson for the STM refused to comment on the ruling.