Reaction to Landmark Canadian Transportation Agency Decision: Disabled Canadians Jubilant to Have Transport Barrier Removed

For Immediate Release | January 10, 2008

WINNIPEG, January 10, 2008—Today the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) released a landmark decision concerning the right of individuals with disabilities to travel by air without having to pay for a second seat, for an attendant or other use, to accommodate their disability. In a historic decision in the "One Person, One Fare" case, the agency has recognized the right of these individuals to have access to a second seat when traveling by air in Canada without having to pay a second fare.

"Canadians with disabilities are celebrating today," said Pat Danforth, Chairperson of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities Transportation Committee. Joanne Neubauer, one of the principal complainants in the case, agreed. "We hope that this decision sends a strong message to all transportation carriers," she said. "Access is the rule."

The CTA decision acknowledged the importance of a number of established human rights principles underlying the arguments of the complainants in the case, noting that these principles dictate that persons with disabilities have the same rights as others to full participation in all aspects of society and that equal access to transportation is critical to their exercise of that right.

"The Canadian Transportation Agency recognized the fundamental soundness of our arguments, which have a strong foundation in existing human rights jurisprudence," said David Baker of bakerlaw, legal counsel for the complainants in the case. "While the number of people who will benefit and the actual cost to the airlines are larger than in any previous case, the principles applied by the Agency in its decision were clearly established by the Supreme Court of Canada in its March 2007 CCD v. VIA Rail decision," said David Baker.

Disabled Canadians said the decision had the potential to make an enormous difference in their lives. "This is about independence," said Sandra Carpenter of the Centre for Independent Living in Toronto. "It's about our ability to be part of Canadian society and to have barriers to our participation removed."

The decision was many years in coming—the late Eric Norman, Joanne Neubauer, and the Council of Canadians with Disabilities filed the original complaint with the CTA in 2002, seeking to establish a situation of equality for passengers with disabilities who travel with attendants.

For many years, Canadians with disabilities traveling by train, bus or marine service have been permitted to use a second seat without cost when one was required. But airlines such as Air Canada, Westjet, and Jazz have not been bound to obey this policy, meaning that many Canadians with disabilities have been forced to effectively pay double what others pay to fly.

Now that all seems set to change.

"We have been looking for some good news in the transport industry for some time," said Claredon Robicheau, a member of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) Transport Committee. "This decision gives us enormous hope that we are once again moving to build an accessible and inclusive Canada."


For More Information or Comment on the Decision Contact:

Mr. David Baker, Legal Counsel
Ms. Sandra Carpenter, Acting Executive Director
Centre for Independent Living in Toronto
416-533-0040 Ext 222
416-599-2458 Ext 36
Ms. Joanne Neubauer
Mr. Jim Derksen, CCD Policy Advisor
Ms. Pat Danforth, Chair Transportation Committee
Mr. Laurie Beachell, National Coordinator CCD
Mr. Claredon Robicheau, Member CCD Transportation Committee (available for French interviews)