Married Couple Able to Travel Together on VIA Rail Trains

  • April 28, 2017
  • Kimberly Srivastava

Our clients are celebrating a major victory over VIA Rail.

Our clients, are husband and wife and are both persons with disabilities who use scooters to assist in their mobility. VIA Rail trains only have one tie-down space per train and as a result, our clients have been forced to travel separately or risk damage to their scooters by having them stowed improperly. As a result of this, they filed a complaint against VIA at the Canadian Transportation Agency (“CTA”).

In a previous blog post (link) we reported on the Canadian Transportation Agency’s decision which found that VIA presented them with undue obstacles in their travels and made orders for VIA to remove these barriers. You can read the decision here (link). We characterized the decision as “favourable but weak”.

The decision found that our clients faced undue obstacles because there were an inadequate number of tie-down spaces per train which would allow them to both travel on the same train with their mobility aids properly and safely secured. The decision was favourable because it exceeded the obsolete Rail Code guidelines which require only one tie-down space per train. Further the CTA agreed to consider our clients’ request to update the Rail Code as part of the CTA’s Regulatory Modernization Initiative. Bakerlaw has heard that draft regulations will soon be released to update the Rail Code as part of this initiative.

The decision was weak because it allowed VIA a second opportunity to argue an “undue hardship” defense despite it raising, but failing to prove, undue hardship during the complaint process. VIA was given one month to provide its undue hardship submissions. VIA Rail let the one month deadline lapse and on March 16th filed for leave to appeal the decision to the Federal Court of Appeal.

Earlier this week, the Federal Court of Appeal dismissed VIA Rail’s application for leave to appeal with costs to our clients. You can view the decision here (link). This means that VIA is required to follow the Canadian Transportation Agency’s order. Since the deadline to submit undue hardship submissions lapsed without any submissions being made, VIA has missed its chance to raise further undue hardship arguments.

The original CTA decision set May 15 as the deadline for when VIA had to fully comply with the order. This means that as of May 15th, our clients will be able to travel together on VIA Rail trains. They are already discussing plans for their next trip!

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