Anti-dhimmitude in British Columbia — but only so far. By Brian Hutchinson for the National Post:
VANCOUVER – A blind man denied service from a Muslim taxi driver for “religious reasons” has been awarded $2,500, the result of a B.C. Human Rights Tribunal discrimination settlement reached on Friday and made public yesterday.
Bruce Gilmour estimates that Vancouver taxi drivers have passed him over “a hundred times, maybe 150 times” since he acquired his first guide dog in 1984. But an incident one evening last year with North Shore Taxi Ltd. was “the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
It was cold outside, and raining. Mr. Gilmour was attempting to return home after spending time with two friends at a West Vancouver coffee shop. The trio had just spent an active weekend at Whistler; Mr. Gilmour remains an avid skier despite being blinded in a 1977 car accident.
A taxi was called. On arrival, the driver would not allow Mr. Gilmour’s golden retriever, Arden, into the car. An argument ensued and the cabbie then drove off, without his two passengers.
Mr. Gilmour complained to North Shore Taxi the next day.
He was told that the driver’s Muslim faith prohibits him from associating with dogs, hence his refusal to provide service.
It was the first time Mr. Gilmour had ever heard such an excuse, and he said it made his blood boil….
Mr. Gilmour decided to fight back. He hired a lawyer, himself a Muslim, and filed a formal complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal, alleging discrimination.
Taxi driver Behzad Saidy and North Shore Taxi applied to have the complaint dismissed. Mr. Saidy filed a statement from a Muslim cleric, claiming that “Islam holds some restrictions toward certain animals, including dogs.” The statement did not elaborate, and the tribunal denied the application to dismiss the discrimination complaint.
Mr. Gilmour consulted with his cleric. Imam Syed Jaffri leads the Az-zahraa Islamic Centre in Richmond, a Vancouver suburb. He “spent long hours on this,” Mr. Gilmour said. “He provided an unbiased interpretation of the Koran that indicated there is nothing saying that one must refuse service to another person because of the fear of contamination by a dog.”
On the other hand, Muslims who come into contact with dog saliva or dog hair are required to repeat their daily ablutions, washing their face, arms, hands, and feet, according to an expert in Islam whom the Vancouver Province interviewed last year.
The tribunal was to hear Mr. Gilmour’s case on Monday; however, a settlement was reached last week with Mr. Saidy and his taxi company. “The parties have agreed to resolve Mr. Gilmour’s complaint by balancing the rights of persons with seeing-eye dogs to obtain taxi service with the rights of Muslims to follow their religion,” the settlement reads.
In the future, North Shore Taxi drivers with an “honest religious belief (Muslim) which precludes them from transporting certified guide dogs” must still respond to calls from blind people such as Mr. Gilmour. But they may ask their dispatch operators to send “the next available cab” to cover the service request.