Uber Canada’s service animal policy criticized by some disability rights advocates

By Peter Goffin
November 20, 2017 | The Canadian Press

TORONTO – Uber Canada has launched a new policy on how its drivers deal with customers who have service animals, but some disability rights advocates say exemptions built into the rules could still lead to discrimination.

The company’s policy says drivers who refuse to give rides to customers with service animals will be dismissed.

But drivers could get an exemption if they provide Uber with « written evidence, like a doctor’s or cleric’s letter … confirming that they belong to a group protected by human rights legislation and how carrying the service animal is an undue hardship, » the policy says.

Uber Canada said the exemptions reflect the two most common reasons their drivers have provided for not wanting service animals in their cars: dog allergies and religious rules about contact with dogs.

« Service animals must be fully accommodated, by law and by good conscience, » Uber Canada Legal Director Jeremy Millard said. « The exemptions clause was written to reflect very new court rulings on this subject. »

Uber encourages drivers to use « every method … to avoid conflict and ensure service animals are carried, » including not seeking the exemption or putting a blanket down on their vehicle’s seat, Millard added.

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According to religious traditions followed by some Muslims, a person must perform « ritual ablutions » if they come into contact with a dog’s saliva, said Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims.

« Each party in this (Uber) situation have human rights that need to be considered, » Gardee said. « At the same time, the National Council of Canadian Muslims strongly urges Muslim drivers to accommodate services dogs for riders with disabilities by considering a broader interpretation of relations between dogs and human beings that is found within the religious tradition. »

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