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Transit Fighter Loses Human Rights Battle

By KARENA WALTER , STANDARD STAFF
Posted October 23, 2010

A St. Catharines woman who took Niagara Region to a human rights tribunal over the lack of a regional transit service has lost her case.

Angela Browne said she’ll ask for a reconsideration or appeal the decision.

“I’m very disappointed. Disappointed in this Region,” she said after receiving the decision from the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario Friday.

Browne filed the complaint in April 2006, arguing the Region didn’t consider the human rights code when it came up with a specialized service that she doesn’t qualify to use.

The service provides rides for people travelling from one municipality to another who are physically unable to board a conventional vehicle or walk 175
metres.

Browne is mobile but takes medications that prevent her from obtaining a driver’s licence.

Browne did not make the argument she should be allowed to ride specialized transit, but argued the Region’s inability to provide conventional inter-municipal transit was discriminating against her on the basis of her disability.

She said her inability to drive has prevented her from securing employment. Not wanting to go on Ontario Works, she became a self-employed paralegal but still has to travel the region for that work.

The tribunal said in its decision that there is no dispute the applicant has a disability.

But because there isn’t a conventional inter-municipal transit system, Browne couldn’t prove she was the victim of differential treatment.

In order to be found discriminated against, a person must establish a service is being provided that they are prevented from accessing.

“In this case, there is no service,” the tribunal wrote. “Conventional inter-municipal transit is not provided by Niagara. In the absence of a service,
there can be no barrier, as one cannot be excluded from a service that does not exist.”

Browne said Friday she’s still spending $1,500 a month on taxi service to get from St. Catharines to Niagara Falls, Port Colborne and Welland for work.
A one-way trip from St. Catharines to Welland on the specialized regional transit service is $7.50

Browne said if she had the resources to move, she would leave the region. She said she can’t save money to move because she spends so much on taxis.

The decision is a setback for people with disabilities, Browne said. She maintained if the Region is providing service for a small percentage of people
with disabilities, they are not treating all people with disabilities the same.

Article ID# 2813794

Reproduced from http://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=2813794