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On February 14, 2013, a petition was submitted to the National Assembly of Quebec concerning guide dogs or service dogs (Part 1)

On February 14, 2013, a petition was submitted to the National Assembly of Quebec concerning guide dogs or service dogs (Part 1)

Reading the text of the petition one requests from the Quebec National Assembly to pass a law that allows a person with a disability to be accompanied by his/her service dog not only in a public place, but also in one’s dwelling, whether this premise is a condominium or a rental unit. Following this event, your association has been invited to participate, last April 15, at a hearing on the petition and on the need to adopt a new law.

In the opinion of the Association of Quebec Landlords, on its face itself this problem is already regulated by the law. In the residential rental field, the refusal of a disabled candidate who requires the assistance of a guide or service dog, despite a building regulation prohibiting dogs, would in our opinion be contrary to the provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (hereafter "Charter") of which mention is made in the text of the petition, i.e. section 10, according to which one cannot discriminate based on disability or the use of any means to palliate a handicap. Discrimination under this law happens when one makes a distinction having the effect of compromising the right to exercise in full equality the rights of a person.

More specifically in the rental area, sections 12 and 13 of the Charter shall take full effect:

12. No one may, through discrimination, refuse to make a juridical act concerning goods or services ordinarily offered to the public.

13. No one may in a juridical act stipulate a clause involving discrimination.

Such a clause is without effect.

The Charter also states clearly in section 52, that no provision of any law can derogate from these articles. It even binds the State.

The fact of banning dogs and other animals in one’s building is a management right by itself for the owner of a rental property. However, we believe that this same clause would become void from the time that it is determined that someone needs an animal to overcome his/her disability under the Charter.

According to the Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission there is a distinction between guide dogs and service dogs. Guide dogs are technical assistance for blind or visually impaired people to overcome this handicap. There are also service dogs that help overcome other types of disabilities or problems, such as deafness, invasive disorder behavior (such as autism) 1. The guide or service dog is recognized by the Courts as a means to palliate a handicap.

Laws similar to the one proposed in the petition exist elsewhere in Canada. For example, among others, in the model laws of Alberta (Service Dogs Act) and British Columbia (Guide and Assistance Dog Act), it is clearly determined that we can not refuse occupancy of a dwelling unit to a disabled person who is accompanied by his/her guide or service dog, or establish discriminatory conditions that would jeopardize this right.

About the author

Me Annie Lapointe notaire

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