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In The Doghouse: Cabbie Fined For Refusing Canine Guide

Editor's Note: Editors Note: Despite protective legislation, the NFB:AE continues to receive numerous stories of dog-guide owners being refused access, especially in taxis. Congratulations to Richard Marion, the NFB:AE's 2nd Vice-President for winning this precedent-setting case in Calgary. The following article is reprinted from the Calgary Sun, March 15, 2000.

For the first time in city history, a cabbie has been fined for refusing to serve a blind person with a guide dog.

In what's being called a precedent-setting case, a cabbie who ordered three visually impaired men and a guide dog out of his cab in downtown Calgary last fall was fined $400 in Provincial Traffic Court yesterday.

It may not have been as high a fine as I would have wanted, but its a good start. It sends a message, said Richard Marion, of Coquitlam, BC with guide dog Gina, 7, at his side.

This is an acknowledgement by the court for (taxi) drivers to accept their social responsibility.

The court heard in the early morning hours of Oct. 3, Marion, his dog and two visually impaired friends had been refused by two other cabs when Gurpal Singh Dhillon, with the Advance Cab Co. arrived at 9 Ave. and Centre St. S.E.

After the men got in his cab, Dhillon said he saw the dog and ordered them out, adding he offered to get them another taxi.

I was thinking its not a big deal, he told the court. Dhillon said he refused to drive the men because he's allergic to pets, but admitted he never told that to the men.

I told him he was breaking the law. He said he didn't have to take a dog in his car, that its his choice, Marion, 31, testified.

The court heard evidence that a city bylaw states cabbies cant refuse service to people with guide dogs.

After driving the men for two blocks, Dhillon stopped and flagged down two police officers.

The police told Dhillon he was breaking the law but after a brief discussion, the three men left the cab and waited up to 30 minutes for another taxi, ordered by the officers.

Court Commissioner Catherine Skene rejected Dhillon's doctors note supporting his allergy story, noting the he was comfortable in close proximity to Marion's Labrador-golden retriever cross in court.

She agreed with Crown Prosecutor Pamela McCluskey that it appears Dhillon didn't want the inconvenience of visually impaired customers.

Its inconceivable in the 21st century someone with a visual disability should be subjected to this kind of treatment, said McCluskey.

Said Dhillon, 31, after the fine was read: We have to follow rules, but its not fair to me.

Marion said its a common occurrence in many cities for cabbies to reject visually impaired customers.