Abandonment and frustration!

How the Canadian Transportation Agency continues to turn a blind eye when it comes to the way the Greater Toronto Airport Authority treats Canadian passengers with disabilities (as luggage rather than as Human Beings.)

Sometimes the only way to really understand what is going on is to experience it for one’s self and even at that it sometimes not enough.  It is my hope that after reading my editorial you will be convinced that if nothing is done then we ought not to complain about it but if we decide that enough is enough then we will do something about it.

My story concerns one of Canada’s highest profile agencies; the Canadian Transportation Agency hereafter referred to as the CTA and how it continues to fail miserably when it comes to protecting the rights of Canadians with disabilities.

My story is all about how the CTA has allowed big business to trample over my rights.  How they have stood back and given the Greater Toronto Airport Authority hereafter referred to as the GTAA free reign to intimidate, bully, and act recklessly and ruthlessly towards Canadian passengers who request special services at the Toronto Airport.

You will learn how the GTAA is using a defence that seeks to absolve themselves from any blame whatsoever instead choosing to lay culpability at the doorstep of their contractor; a service provider known as ACAP.

For ease of reading and to ensure that I only share with you information that is public; I am just going to provide you with the important points and if you wish to learn more then you can contact me personally at donnajodhan@sterlingcreations.ca.

On a return flight from the Caribbean to Terminal 3 on January 13 2014, and after I had fastidiously ensured that the GTAA’s contracted call takers had been explicitly told that I required assistance as a blind passenger to be met at the doors of the aircraft by an agent and not with a wheelchair, the agent showed up with a wheelchair.

I was told that if I did not sit in said wheelchair, I would have to wait for an hour before I could be helped.  When I firmly refused to sit in said wheelchair, I was escorted to the head of the bridge and told to sit and wait.  I did so and after about 10 to 15 minutes an agent came along and about 45 minutes later I finally exited the doors of terminal 3.

I will note here that while sitting and waiting at the head of the bridge, there was no one around me; no one that I could hear moving around close to me.

In June of 2014, I launched a complaint with the CTA against the GTAA but at first the GTAA refused mediation.   When I then asked for a tribunal hearing the GTAA then changed its mind saying that they would only attend if the Airline involved and the service provider who is their contractor could also attend.  In addition, they stipulated that we should all have a phone call before mediation.

I perceived this to be arbitration as opposed to mediation and accordingly I declined their terms.

In May 2015, The CTA handed down an interim decision holding the GTAA responsible for the incident of January 13 2014 and requested additional information from them.

In June 2015, the GTAA filed papers to the Federal Court of Appeal asking said Court to overturn the CTA’s interim decision.  Their argument was that the CTA did not have the jurisdiction to hand down such a decision.

To my great surprise I was served with court papers and named as a respondent along with the CTA and when I sought an explanation for this from the GTAA I was met with little or no explanation; just that I should check with the Federal Court of Appeal for one.

When I sought an explanation from the CTA I was told that this was how the system worked.  That it was an automatic process for me as the complainant to be also named as a respondent in the GTAA’s appeal.

When I asked if I should seek a lawyer, The CTA’s lawyers told me no; it was not necessary.  I found that the CTA was insensitive to my foreboding and anxiety about being unexpectedly named in a court case. The CTA offered no legal help to me and this only made me even more uneasy.

In order to start defending myself I first had to seek the Court’s permission to file my documents in electronic format and to receive the permission of the CTA and GTAA and this was quickly granted.

I continued to be confused and several attempts on my part to seek some sort of guidance from the CTA was met with the explanation that the CTA had to remain neutral.  I then turned to close friends for help and along with some assistance from staff at the Federal Court of Appeal, I filed a motion for expedition but this was promptly rejected by the Court.  The explanation being that I should have done this earlier.

To date, we are now awaiting a hearing date to be set by the Federal Court of Appeal and who knows when this will be.  In the meantime more time continues to elapse between the actual date of the incident and the one that will be eventually set by the Court.

On September 08 2015, I again encountered great difficulty when I landed at Terminal 3 having arrived from the Caribbean.  As has been my custom for at least the past decade, I again ensured that my requirements as a blind passenger were clearly communicated to all stakeholders; airline and GTAA staff.

However, upon my arrival, there was no agent at the doors of the aircraft to meet me and I had to wait for about 10 minutes before someone arrived with a wheelchair.

When I told said agent that I never requested a wheelchair I was told that it would be better for me if I were to sit in it.  I firmly refused.

For the next 15 minutes, the agent allowed me to take his arm as we walked along while at the same time he pushed another passenger in a wheelchair.

So there I was hanging onto his arm as I pulled my own carry on bag behind me and as we went I bumped into several obstacles and people along the way.

At one time as we walked the agent again repeated that it would be better for everyone if I were to sit in a wheelchair but once again I refused.  At the end of my journey through terminal 3 my right shoulder was quite sore and bruised.

Later in September 2015 I launched a new and separate complaint against the GTAA and in February we went to mediation which failed.  On March 15 the CTA stayed this complaint with the explanation that it would not deal with it until my first complaint was resolved by the Court.

I have decided to take my complaint to a different venue because I know only too well that by the time my first complaint is finally resolved there is no telling if I would ever receive justice.  The same for complaint 2 and you can be sure that if I encounter any further difficulties in the meantime the decision makers at the CTA will stay each and every one of them.

I will now share my final thoughts.

  1. Who really are the decision makers at the CTA? The ones who decide how to deal with complaints? Is it those members who sit on a panel that is presently made up of just men, no women, an no one with any perceived background in disability issues?
  2. Does the CTA really have any power to make decisions that contain meaningful solutions? Or are they just there as so-called window dressing?
  3. Would they find it easier to give in to big business such as the GTAA who continues to deny any responsibility choosing instead to take unsuspecting complainants to Court because the system allows and enables them to do so?
  4. How much longer are passengers with special requirements going to be treated as pieces of luggage rather than as Human beings?
  5. How much longer are we going to allow companies like the GTAA to hide behind the excuse that it is not their responsibility choosing instead to use their high priced lawyers and deep financial pockets to victimize and bully complainants?
  6. Could it be inferred then that this entire complaints system is sadly broken as I respectfully ask why is it that a matter concerning undue hardships and obstacles which can be easily fixed is still being decided? I launched my original complaint in June 2014 and we are now into 2016 with no end in sight of a resolution.
  7. Finally, what does this say about the GTAA’s commitment to customer service? Does this mean that persons who are blind customers or travelers are to be discouraged from using The Toronto Airport; Canada’s largest airport? Is my treatment by the GTAA to be viewed as acceptable customer service?

I truly believe that companies such as the GTAA are being given carte blanche to keep on violating our rights as Canadians and the only thing to stop them and mandate them to recognize us as Human Beings is to legislate a Canadians with disabilities act.

I can only hope that Prime Minister Trudeau will find a way to correct this gross disability imbalance through the passing of a Canadians with disabilities Act much sooner than later.  I believe that the CTA has deserted me and in so doing has failed Canadians with disabilities as there are several others who have had to endure similar experiences but are afraid to come forward.

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