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Facts[]

VIA Rail signed a code stating what accommodation would look like on their trains. They agreed that any new or refurbished trains would have at least one car that would accommodate people in their own wheelchairs. VIA then bought 139 new cars from England and underwent a large refurbishment process. The Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) that upheld the agreement that VIA had signed continually asked for numbers showing how much it was going to cost in order to make the cars accessible, but VIA never game them these figures. In the end, the CTA told them that they had to make 30 of the cars accessible. VIA immediately went to the Federal Court and presented them with new figures, stating that to make them refurbish 30 cars would amount to undue hardship who found for VIA Rail. The Council of Canadians with Disabilities applied to the CTA stating that there were 46 features of the new cars which constituted "undue obstacles" to the mobility of persons with disabilities.

Issue[]

  1. What amounts to undue hardship?

Decision[]

Appeal allowed, CTA's decision restored.

Reasons[]

The court held that this case passes the first two steps of the Meiorin test because the purpose (cost efficient service) is rationally connected to the function (rail travel) and the standard (refurbishing for accommodation) was adopted in good faith. However, the standard that VIA employs is not what is reasonably necessary for the purpose. VIA does not accommodate to the point of undue hardship. VIA attempted to argue that doing this would raise ticket prices and therefore would be unfair accommodation because it is not fair to the other passengers who have to pay more for tickets. The court rejects this argument and lays out some things (non-exhaustive) that are considered when trying to determine what amount to accommodation to the point of undue hardship:

  • Cost
  • Safety
  • Burden on other parties
  • Size of the business
  • Success of the business
  • How much interference with the business will result
  • Ability to shift costs
  • Availability of external funding
  • Whether accommodation will alter the "essential character" of the enterprise

The dissenting judges state that VIA cannot afford to remove the obstacles because they receive subsidies and are therefore not on their own a viable enterprise (despite on the facts that they have a $25 million contingency fund and the decision in Grismer which held that the government generally has deep pockets). The dissent also holds that the first part of the Meiorin test asks if the standard is rationally connected to the purpose, when it is really asking whether the purpose of the standard is rationally connected to the job. This confuses step one as the same as step three, just with a much lower threshold.

Ratio[]

  • Simply receiving subsidies does not mean that any costs are undue hardship.
  • It is not necessary to apply the entire Meiorin test if one is sure the case will fail on a particular aspect.
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