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Cab, bistro erred - panel

Lauren McKeon
Northern News Services
Published Monday, December 22, 2008

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - Bill Burles filed a complaint against City Cabs in December 2006. Burles frequently used the handi-van in the company's fleet, but felt it was unfair for the driver to charge a $6 service fee - applicable to all "Suburban type" vehicles.

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Bill Burles recently won a human rights case against City Cabs. The company's driver had been charging Burles a $6 surcharge for use of the handi-van. - Lauren McKeon/NNSL photo

City Cabs has since reviewed its policy and now reimburses the driver the extra fee - so the charge is not handed down to the user - if a person requests the larger vehicle because he is in a wheelchair.

"In my view, Mr. Burles' feelings of a diminished sense of security and self-esteem resulting from the imposition of the fee and its effects on his lifestyle are reasonably held," wrote Heather Clark in her decision.

"It's (about) the freedom of choice and that $6 service charge was a factor in limiting my freedom of choice due to my financial situation," Burles told News/North.

Burles added representatives from City Cabs tried to depict him as a "money grubber" and a "poor old crip."

City Cabs did not return calls for comment.

Burles is seeking $3,500 in compensation for injuries to his dignity and self-respect.

He also said he is $60 out-of-pocket for paying the surcharge about 10 times.

The adjudicator will decide the payment amount in the upcoming weeks.

Le Frolic recently received a slap on the wrist in regards to its case, but was not ordered to make any payment.

Emily Lawson filed a complaint in 2006 against the bistro, saying she was forced out after a server asked her to leave her dog outside, which Lawson said was a special services dog.

While both parties agreed on the details of the event, "much of the rest of Lawson's testimony was either very vague, inconsistent, or incredible," wrote the adjudicator, Shannon Gullberg, in her decision.

Lawson herself testified anybody with a services dog should carry documentation to present to restaurant owners, although on the night of the incident she did not.

"Given all of this, if Lawson suffered as a result of this incident, she must consider that she did not follow her own advice," wrote Gullberg.

Gullberg added she is confident the restaurant has since obtained a better understanding of the law regarding restaurants and service dogs and will not allow a similar incident to happen again.