Discrimination: Muslims versus the disabled

The vice-chair of the Muslim Canadian Federations, Aziz Khaki, isn’t happy with the new ‘taxi bill of rights’ introduced in Vancouver to clearly outline the rights of taxi passengers.

According to a CBC article, the bill states taxi passengers have the right to:

  • Be picked up and transported to their stated destination by any available on duty taxi driver
  • Pay the posted rate by cash, accepted credit card, or TaxiSaver voucher.
  • A courteous driver who provides assistance, if requested.
  • Travel with an assistance dog or portable mobility aid.
  • A taxi that is clean, smoke free and in good repair.
  • Direct the route, or expect the most economical route.
  • A quiet atmosphere, upon request.
  • A detailed receipt, when requested.

On the face of it, these all seem pretty straightforward. The problem is Islam sees dogs as unclean and many Muslims will avoid contact with dogs. While dogs aren’t typically taxi passengers, the blind and others requiring assistance dogs do take taxis.

Khaki goes further, “It’s a clear, clear case of discrimination and insensitivity on behalf of the authorities to try to punish the person without understanding the person’s own belief.” Replace ‘authorities’ with ‘drivers’ and the statement also rings true, if not more so. Taxis are in the business of providing transportation, so I don’t view an expectation to deliver this service as unreasonable.

The bill is very specific about the reasons a taxi drive may refuse a fare:

  • To avoid contravening a law or condition of licence.
  • To protect the driver’s, or any passenger’s, health or safety.
  • If the passenger is acting in an offensive manner.
  • If the passenger refuses to provide a deposit, if requested.

Nothing about dogs there, so should a Muslim driver refuse to carry a person with an assistance dog, he may receive a $288 fine.

Normally I’d think the dispatcher taking calls for taxis could ask if an assistance animal is involved and send a taxi that will take the fare. Unfortunately, it’s not so simple. What if a person who has an assistance animal approaches a taxi stand or hails a cab in the street? If no one will take them, they’re stuck. Even if the Muslim driver agrees to call another taxi, why should the fare have to wait? There’s a perfectly good taxi right there. Should the driver have the option to refuse?

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association thinks so. Jason Gratl, president of the association, says, “It wouldn’t take much for the government to include an exception for religious or possibly medical issues associated with the passage of dogs.” Yea, and ‘slippery slope’ is written all over this.

If your beliefs forbid you to do a core aspect of a job, I certainly respect your feelings and beliefs. Don’t take the job. The profession is driving anyone who wants to pay for the service. Can’t do it? Then don’t. The job’s obviously not right for you. It would be just as silly to apply for work in a butchery, and then refuse to handle pork. It’s part of the job.

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