VIA Rail Defies Canada's Accessibility Laws

For Immediate Release

Thursday, February 1, 2001

VIA Rail, a Crown Corporation, has responded to a Canadian Transportation Agency request to cease retrofitting newly purchased railed cars with total defiance and disdain for the accessibility needs of Canadians with disabilities.

VIA's position was contained in a response to a Friday, January 26 CTA request for the Corporation to suspend all further work on the rolling stock until questions associated with a Council of Canadians with Disabilities complaint had been satisfactorily resolved. VIA has adopted the position that CTA cannot interfere in any aspect of the process respecting accessibility until such time as the stock is actually in service. VIA in an untendered purchase bought 139 British cars that were built for the Chunnel.

"We made our case and won the right to have it determined whether these cars would prove to be an obstacle to mobility disabled people, but it doesn't seem to have mattered," says CCD's Transportation Committee Chairperson, Pat Danforth of Victoria. "VIA Rail thinks it's above the law, and I worry that it might actually get its way. We remind Minister Collenette of his promise that the public purchase of new rolling stock would ensure access for persons with disabilities." Danforth said.

"We're behind the CTA and its mandated authority 100%," says the committee's former Chair, Eric Norman of Gander, commenting on the CTA's February 1 injunction against VIA "Seeing to the accessibility requirements of disabled rail travellers is a part of the law of this country. If VIA can get away with ignoring a Canadian Transportation Agency ruling, no regulatory authority of the federal government is safe from being similarly flouted," Norman said.

CCD is a national, cross-disability consumer organization with its headquarters in Winnipeg. "VIA is ignoring the accessibility needs of Canadians with disabilities and appears to consider itself above the law," said Laurie Beachell National Coordinator of CCD.

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For more information, contact:

Pat Danforth - 250 383-4443 (H) 250-746-3930 (W)
Eric Norman - 709-256-8630 (H)
Laurie Beachell, National Coordinator - 204-947-0303
David Baker, Legal Counsel - 416-539-0226 (W)