Service dogs aren’t a rarity – especially in a city as large as Toronto. You see them assisting their humans everywhere, helping them on the street, and inside businesses.
One would think that if someone requiring service dog was denied service, that something should be done about it. Informing the Police, for instance. But much to Toronto resident Karoline Bourdeau’s disappointment, they did exactly nothing to remedy the situation. She had been denied entry to a local restaurant, due to having her guide dog, Lucy, with her.
Upon calling the Police non-emergency line, she was told that not only was it within the restaurant’s rights to deny service to anyone they wish to (not true), but that it wasn’t the Police’s responsibility to deal with the problem, as, according to the call-taker, it is the city that enforces those laws.
Global News was given the same explanation more than once when investigating, even being told “[the legality of denying service dogs] is news to us”.
Here’s where it gets interesting. You will notice, on the back of this Ministry of The Attorney General approved card, that it is not only illegal to deny service to anyone requiring a service dog, but anyone doing so should in fact be reported to Police.
Spokesperson Brendan Crawley emailed Global News. “The police have the authority to investigate alleged violations under the Blind Persons’ Rights Act and determine whether to lay charges (…) Crown counsel prosecute cases after the police lay charges.”
Global News sent the Police a copy of the act, and statement, and after consulting with their legal department, admitted that yes, they should be investigating these cases.
They claimed there were so few calls dealing with this issue that they simply were not aware of what to do, but also said that they had no way of knowing exactly how many calls they actually received.
“I wouldn’t say all police don’t know,” said Const. Victor Kwong, spokesperson for the Toronto Police Service. “When you contacted me, it is something that none of my office knew about because simply it’s not something that we deal with.”
“Once you had something real to put forward to me to investigate, I did. We were wrong in this.”
Toronto Police have promised they will be making sure all staff are informed of their part in protecting the rights of people with service dogs, however as of last Friday, they haven’t spoken to the person who took the initial call as to why she told Bourdeau that the restaurant had a right to refuse her,
The city and province also have roles to play in situations such as these; the city can address it through licensing, and a human rights complaint through the province.
Toronto Police said they will be offering an apology to Bourdeau.