Letter: Reestablishing the Human Rights Commission, November 17, 2017

Ravi Kahlon
Parliamentary Secretary for Sport & Multiculturalism
November 17, 2017

Dear Mr. Kahlon,

I am the President of the Canadian Federation of the Blind (www.cfb.ca), a membership organization of blind citizens that is committed to the integration of blind people in British Columbia society on the basis of equality. I am writing in response to your request that groups provide public comment regarding the reestablishment of the Human Rights Commission.

The CFB is very supportive of this initiative. The Human Rights Tribunal is set up to adjudicate complaints of discrimination. It is reactive. A correctly constituted Human Rights Commission, provided it is funded adequately, could proactively work for reform in policies that lead to systemic discrimination against blind individuals.

To site just one of many examples, some provincial job recruitment announcements include a requirement that successful applicants must hold a valid driver’s license. This requirement is completely appropriate when the operation of a motor vehicle is a primary job duty. It is discriminatory when the purpose of a driver’s license requirement is to ensure that employees can travel outside their office to do their jobs. Blind employees can use a number of alternative techniques. They can take public transportation or taxis, ride with colleagues, or hire drivers. A robust Human Rights Commission could examine broader issues like this one; it need not be limited to responding to specific complaints.

An adequately funded Human Rights Commission would ensure that expertise in blindness and other disabilities, not merely expertise in human rights law, could be brought to bear in the disposition of individual complaints as well as in the examination of systemic issues.

Our support of a Human Rights Commission also stems from deep disappointment in the performance and rulings of the Human Rights Tribunal. In particular, we believe that an October 2015 ruling represents a significant setback in the access right of people with guide dogs. Sadly, this is not the first time the Tribunal has issued decisions that completely fail to comprehend the purpose of laws protecting the rights of blind individuals to travel freely using the mobility aid of their choice. I think that the unpleasant history of the BCHRT and its treatment of taxi discrimination against people who travel with guide dogs illustrates why British Columbia needs an organization that focuses on defending human rights rather than one that pushes for compromises to resolve complaints.

I have enclosed a synopsis of the October, 2015 case and our associated concerns. I would be happy to discuss these matters further with you, or with members of the Human Rights Commission, if so desired.

We hope that the new Commission will provide a better and more robust defender of access rights for blind people.

Yours truly,

Mary Ellen Gabias
Canadian Federation of the Blind

The CFB’s Testimony to the BC Budget Consultation Committee

Presented October 13, 2017

The Canadian Federation of the Blind (www.cfb.ca) is a membership organization of blind people committed to the complete integration of blind people into British Columbian society on the basis of equality. We believe that blindness need not be the characteristic that defines us and that, if training and opportunity is available, blind British Columbians can live the lives we want. CFB is not a service provider organization. We are not seeking money from the province to offer rehabilitation programs. We are considering applying for gaming funds in the same manner as a local civic or service club would apply. It is important that you understand that our suggestions relate to a pattern of thinking and strategies of funding that matter to us as advocates, but the Canadian Federation of the Blind in no way seeks to benefit financially from the changes we propose.

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Comment from the Canadian Federation of the Blind on Proposed CGSB Service Dog Standards

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau, Minister Qualtrough, and CGSB,

The Canadian Federation of the Blind is an organization composed of blind individuals, including many who work with guide dogs. We in the Canadian Federation of the Blind believe the approach taken by the Canadian General Standards Board in developing service dog standards is in direct conflict with the push for equal access implicit in the development of a new Canadian accessibility law. The underlying premise of this process also conflicts with the principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

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Help the CFB by Donating Aeroplan Miles

Please help us reach our goal by donating your Aeroplan miles here: https://beyondmiles.aeroplan.com/eng/charity/546

Ending the Business of Blind Charity

This piece originally appeared in Volume 11 of The Blind Canadian, July 2016.

by Sam Margolis

As it presently stands, Canada’s 42,000 blind citizens of working age are viewed by the vast majority of government officials as charity cases and not capable, contributing members of society. Nine out of ten blind Canadians are not gainfully employed. With no income and forced to live off of benefits, many live in poverty, unable to fulfill their potential, unable to lead a full and dignified life. Read the rest of this entry »

License to Beg: A TEDx Talk by Anne Malone

From the CFB President: “Anne Malone is a blind woman who, until recently, lived in St. John’s, Newfoundland. She contacted CFB several years ago, and, as you can tell from the talk she gave at a TEDX conference in St. John’s, she’s been thinking about what blindness means, and, more significantly, what it doesn’t mean.

I thank Anne for telling her story, and ours, in a forum where our voice can be heard around the country and around the world. Anne says, ‘It is all seed–opportunities to germinate new discourse and ways of thinking about blindness, and the vast potential that is resident in all of us, regardless of how we experience the world.’”

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The Power of Individual Engagement and Collective Action

A speech presented by Mary Ellen Gabias, CFB President at the CFB “Vote of Confidence” Convention on May 6, 2017, Harbour Towers, Victoria, B.C.,

Welcome all of you to the convention of the Canadian Federation of the Blind. This is the 25th anniversary of Federationism in Canada, as well as the 150th anniversary of our country. We deserve to give ourselves a round of applause because it really is a milestone year for us. And with all the energy in this group, it’s going to be a milestone future for us as well.

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Public ownership of library books in alternate format, letter to decision makers, April, 2017

April 13, 2017

Dear legislators and librarians interested in services to blind Canadians:

Canada currently has two library services for blind people and others with print disabilities. The publicly owned system is called National Network for Equitable Library Service (NNELS). The privately owned system is the old CNIB library, now called Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA).

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Fun Trivia Night Fundraiser on May 5 at Norway House

Have fun May 5 and help the CFB at the same time!

Have fun May 5 and help the CFB at the same time!

The Canadian Federation of the Blind is hosting a fun Trivia evening at Norway House, 1110 Hillside Avenue, on Friday May 5, 2017 from 6:30pm to 9:30pm.

Admission to the event is $25.00 per person, and will be collected at the door. Cheques should be made payable to the Victoria Imperial Lions Club.

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Open Letter to the Chairman of the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal

Dear Mr. Bernd Walter,

Re: The Tribunal’s Misuse of Power

As the Chair of the BC Human Rights Tribunal and one who was directly involved in Case 12930, I am sending this open letter after experiencing your and your staff’s use of power to directly undermine guide dog users’ access rights. The Human Rights Tribunal appears unable or unwilling to act ethically when guide dog owners reach out for protection from prejudice.

The Tribunal’s retreat from its duty to address systemic discrimination has permitted anyone to act illegally, putting blind customers at the service provider’s mercy. You have deviated from the official main purpose of the Tribunal, sending a huge red flag to the disabled. “Balancing rights” is an oxymoron, as a right is paramount and not a ratio to be calibrated. There is no evidence that guide dogs cause problems in public places or conveyances. Many unproven barriers have been used to permit discrimination and this is unscrupulous and fraudulent.

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