Paru le vendredi 21 novembre 2008 sur The Toronto star
Les transporteurs aériens devront faire de la place pour les handicapés
Il y a 16 heures
OTTAWA — La Cour suprême du Canada a approuvé un ordre de réglementation obligeant les plus importants transporteurs aériens au pays à accorder gratuitement un siège supplémentaire aux personnes handicapées ou obèses qui en font la demande.
Dans une décision rendue jeudi, et sans aucun commentaire, le plus haut tribunal au Canada a rejeté une demande déposée par Air Canada et WestJet visant à obtenir la permission de se pourvoir en appel contre un ordre de l'Office des transports du Canada.
L'agence fédérale estimait que les deux transporteurs aériens faisaient de la discrimination à l'égard des personnes handicapées. La Cour suprême du Canada a donc souscrit à cette opinion, mettant fin à une bataille judiciaire de six ans.
En janvier dernier, l'Office des transports avait ordonné à Air Canada et à WestJet d'adopter une politique "une personne, un tarif".
Cela voudrait dire, par exemple, que des frais additionnels ne pourraient pas être exigés à une personne handicapée ayant besoin de plus d'espace pour sa chaise roulante, ou encore à une personne obèse ayant besoin d'une place supplémentaire.
De plus, les accompagnateurs de personnes handicapées n'auraient pas à payer pour leurs déplacements.
"Cela fera une grande différence pour ces personnes", a affirmé l'avocat de Toronto, David Baker, qui a défendu la cause au nom des passagers handicapés.
Joanne Neubauer, de Victoria, en Colombie-Britannique, l'une des deux personnes handicapées à l'origine de la cause, a dit qu'elle se sentait désormais "comme une citoyenne à part entière dans ce pays".
"Je suis contente que la sagesse et la justice aient prévalu", a affirmé Mme Neubauer, qui souffre d'arthrite rhumatoïde et qui doit se déplacer en chaise roulante.
L'autre personne handicapée à l'origine de la cause, Eric Norman, de Gander, à Terre-Neuve-et-Labrador, souffrait d'une tumeur de la colonne vertébrale qui le contraignait à prendre l'avion régulièrement pour recevoir des traitements à Toronto. Il est décédé avant la fin des procédures judiciaires.
Les compagnies d'autobus, de train et de traversier acceptent ce type d'arrangement depuis longtemps. Mais l'industrie aérienne faisait valoir qu'elle perdrait trop d'argent si jamais elle devait adopter une politique "une personne, un tarif".
L'agence fédérale a estimé les coûts pour Air Canada à environ 7 millions $ par année et pour WestJet à environ 1,5 million $ par année.
Air Canada et WestJet ont indiqué qu'il se soumettrait à l'ordre de l'Office des transports du Canada, qui commande une implantation de la nouvelle politique d'ici le 9 janvier 2009.
Néanmoins, les deux transporteurs ont noté que l'ordre s'appliquait seulement aux vols intérieurs, et pas aux vols internationaux. Un porte-parole de WestJet, Richard Bartem, a indiqué que la compagnie considérerait étendre la mesure aux vols internationaux. Air Canada ne s'est pas prononcé.
Paru vendredi 21 novembre 2008 dans The Toronto star
Ruling upheld on disabled travel
TheStar.com - GTA - Ruling upheld on disabled travel
Canadian airlines forced to make additional seats available at no charge for obese, others in need
November 21, 2008
Dale anne freed
Calgary law professor Linda McKay-Panos won a legal battle yesterday that will allow her and thousands of other Canadians to fly in greater comfort and dignity.
McKay-Panos, who is clinically obese because of a medical condition and needs two airline seats when she travels, won the right to fly on major Canadian airlines as "one person, one fare."
Three of the country\\\'s major airlines are being forced – after a six-year-legal battle – to make additional seats available at no charge to disabled or obese passengers who need the extra room.
The Supreme Court of Canada cleared the way for the move yesterday, rejecting an application by Air Canada, Air Canada Jazz and WestJet for permission to appeal the new policy imposed by the Canadian Transportation Agency.
The Supreme Court, in keeping with tradition, gave no reason for refusing to review the case.
But the effect was to uphold an agency finding that the air carriers were discriminating against the disabled.
The agency issued an order last January requiring the companies to adopt a policy of "one person, one fare."
That would mean, for example, that a disabled person who needs additional room for a wheelchair or stretcher, or an obese person who needs an additional seat, couldn\\\'t be charged extra.
It would also mean that, if a disabled person has to be accompanied by an attendant, the attendant would ride for free.
"This is going to make a huge difference for those people," said David Baker, the Toronto lawyer who fought the case on behalf of disabled passengers. "They are going to be able to travel now. ... It\\\'s a great thing for people with disabilities, it\\\'s a great thing for Canada."
Joanne Neubauer of Victoria, one of two disabled people whose complaints sparked the case, said yesterday\\\'s news made her feel like "an equal citizen in this country."
"I\\\'m pretty happy," said Neubauer, who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis and uses a motorized wheelchair. "I\\\'m glad that they saw the wisdom, and justice prevailed."
Mckay-Panos, 51, executive director of the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre that\\\'s affiliated with the University of Calgary, said many other obese people told her they were "counting on her to see this through to the end."
"Maybe a few more of us will be comfortable flying and so maybe it will increase (airline) business," said McKay-Panos, who was born with polycystic ovary syndrome.
On a flight from Calgary to Toronto in 1997, she said. "I was sitting in the bulkhead so the armrest doesn\\\'t move. My hips were basically on the lap of the gentleman who sat beside me. I had to upgrade my seat to first class so that I could get home. It was a humiliating experience.
"I am so delighted that I think my case has come to some kind of closure after 11 1/2 years."
Marc Comeau, of the Transportation Agency, said it\\\'s conceivable that not everyone who claims to be disabled will qualify for free seats. Obesity, for example, has been deemed a disability for legal purpose in some cases but not in all.
Pat Danforth spokesperson for the Council for Canadians with Disabilities said the organization was "thrilled to see the removal of another long-standing barrier to our mobility and travel."
Air Canada and WestJet said they will comply with the transportation agency\\\'s order, which carries a deadline of Jan. 10, 2009.
Both airlines noted, however, the order applies only to their domestic flights, not to international ones. A WestJet spokesperson said his company would consider extending the policy to international flights but hasn\\\'t decided whether to do so. An Air Canada spokesperson said he couldn\\\'t speculate on that point.
With files from The Canadian Press
Parue vendredi 21 novembre 2008 dans Thew Calgary Herald
TAMARA GIGNAC CALGARYHERALD
Airlines to accommodate obese
‘One person, one fare’ ruling tackles disabilities
On an Air Canada flight to Ottawa 11 years ago, Linda McKay-Panos squeezed into an airplane seat so uncomfortably small it left bruises on her body.
Dean Bicknell, Calgary HeraldUniversity of Calgary lawprofessor Linda McKay-Panos says shewas ridiculed and bruised during one flying experience.
The Calgary lawyer — who suffers from a medical condition that triggers obesity — says she was laughed at, rammed by food carts and humiliated after her hips overflowed into the lap of the male passenger seated next to her.
McKay-Panos is relieved that beginning next year she won’t have to relive the experience. Disabled travellers — including the morbidly obese— must be given an extra free seat on domestic flights as of Jan. 10 after the Supreme Court of Canada refused Thursday to hear an appeal by the country’s biggest airlines.
Air Canada and WestJet failed in their pitch to quash a decision from the Canadian Transportation Agency, which gave them one year to bring in a policy known as “one person, one fare” to allow disabled passengers a second seat for a travelling companion. Obese people can also qualify if they are too large to fit in a single seat.
“Now I know I can fly with dignity,” said McKay-Panos, 51, who was born with a hormonal disorder.
“I’ll be able to phone up the airline and be treated with respect and have my disability accommodated without making it so I can’t afford to fly.”
Air Canada and WestJet said Thursday they intend to fully comply with the federal order, although the carriers aren’t sure what kind of screening process will be used to assesswho is eligible for an extra ticket.
Canada is so far the only country in theworld to require its airlines to followsuch a policy, said WestJet spokesman Richard Bartrem. “The big work for us now is understanding what sort of guidelines to put in place that are fair and consistent,” he said.
In its ruling, the agency said the free fares need not be provided to obese people who are merely uncomfortable in their seats or are not disabled by their size.
The airlines also do not have to make allowances for disabled people who prefer to travel with a companion for personal reasons or those who require care on the ground but not in the air.
Calgary civil liberties lawyer Stephen Jenuth considers the federal decision a wake-up call for a number of industries that may have to rethink the traditional definition of disabled.
“It is an important battle; it really speaks to the kind of accommodations businesses have to make to allow disabled people to use their services,” he said.
According to Canadian Transportation Agency figures, the new rules will add about 77 cents to each ticket sold by Air Canada and 44 cents to everyWestJet fare.
The cost of flying probably will increase to some degree for all travellers come January, saidWestJet’s Bartrem.
“Ultimately anytime we take revenue seats off of an aircraft and essentially replace them with guests that are flying for free, there’s going to be a financial impact,” he said.
McKay-Panos, a University of Calgary professor and the executive director of the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre, says the right for morbidly obese people to fly with the same degree of accessibility as the average traveller is a victory for all disabled people
After more than a decade of battling the airlines, she’s looking forward to flying again. “Many obese persons are following this situation . . . and are grateful I was willing to put myself forward,” said McKayPanos.
“As you can imagine, I get ridicule aswell as praise.”