CRARR SUPPORTS RAPLIQ’S CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT AGAINST PUBLIC TRANSIT AUTHORITIES FOR DISABILITY–BASED DISCRIMINATION
Montreal, April 15, 2015 — CRARR strongly supports the application for a multi-million dollar class action lawsuit filed this morning by RAPLIQ, a Montreal-based disabled rights advocacy group, against the Montreal Transit Authority (STM), the City of Montreal, the Metropolitan Transit Agency (MTA) and the provincial Transport Ministry for discrimination in public transit services.
People with disabilities have long complained of systemic discrimination and institutionalized obstacles to full and equal access in public transit in Montreal, which persistently prevent them from enjoying first class citizenship and fundamental human rights that are guaranteed by the Canadian and the Quebec Charter of rights and freedoms.
Obstacles to full access and effective equality for disabled public transit users include:
❏ Only 4 out of the 13 train stations of the MTA’s Eastern trains are accessible to people on wheelchair. The MTA is also responsible for the “elevator to nowhere” at the Place Bonaventure metro station where a second elevator that was supposed to have been built to take disabled passengers from the metro station up to the commuter bus terminal at 1000 de la Gauchetière has yet to be built.
❏ Only 8 of the STM’s 68 metro stations are accessible to riders on wheelchair. As for bus ramps, only 34% of them are functional, according to a RAPLIQ study done in 2011.
❏ The City of Montreal appoints elected councillors as members of the Board of Directors of the STM and MTA, where social inclusion and fair access are supposed to be guiding standards for decision-making but are not; and
❏ The provincial Ministry of Transport, which subsidizes transit public, has not fully carried out its statutory duty regarding disabled users’ right to full access. In addition, it recently cut subsidies to taxi permit holders subcontracted by the STM to serve disabled users.
According to RAPLIQ President Linda Gauthier, “We have tolerated far too long discrimination in public transit, and we can no longer wait to be first-class citizens. Our rights to effective equality and full access in public transit are guaranteed in the Canadian and the Quebec Charter of rights and freedoms, as well as the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which Canada ratified in 2010.”
“While Toronto aims to achieve universal access for its public transit system by 2025, Montreal expects to do so by 2085. We can’t just dream of barrier-free public transit until we die,” said RAPLIQ Vice-President Laurent Morissette.
According to lawyer Aymar Missakila, who filed the lawsuit this morning in Quebec Superior Court, this anti-discrimination class action is considered to be the first in Quebec and can involve up to 20,000 disabled users of public transit who will each claim $5,000 in damages.
Rarely used until today, class action is increasingly considered a powerful legal tool to fight discrimination.
“We want to seek new frontiers in our quest for equality, and this is why all equality-seeking groups should stand in solidarity and support RAPLIQ in this lawsuit. Class action must become a privileged recourse against systemic and institutionalized discrimination,” said CRARR’s Executive Director Fo Niemi.