March 23, 2015 9:13 pm
Updated: March 23, 2015 9:18 pm

Toronto police investigate woman’s claim of discrimination over guide dog


WATCH ABOVE: Global News stories have pushed the City of Toronto to educate staff on their role in protecting the rights of people turned away from businesses because of their service dog. Christina Stevens reports.

TORONTO — A friendly face from the police officer behind the counter at 41 Division was a relief to Karoline Bourdeau and her husband.

Almost a week after they were denied service at a Scarborough sushi restaurant because of Karoline’s guide dog Potter, the Toronto Police Service finally agreed to take a report.

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“Hopefully the restaurant owner will learn something, but my goal is to have better awareness from the people that are supposed to be enforcing it,” said Bourdeau.

Bourdeau had called police and the City of Toronto after the owner of Ikki Sushi told them that Potter could not accompany them into the restaurant last Tuesday.

READ MORE: Toronto police admit it’s their job to step in when service dogs denied

Police told her they did not have the authority to investigate. City staff told her they didn’t know whether they could do anything and that they would call her later with an answer. They did not.

Police also repeatedly told Global News they couldn’t do a thing. After they were shown a copy of the Blind Persons’ Rights Act and proof from the Ministry of the Attorney General, they reversed their position.

Even though police now admit they were wrong and agreed to take Bourdeau’s report, she doesn’t feel like they are taking the issue, or her, seriously.

“Not surprised, just sad” said Bourdeau.

She said She still has not had an apology from the police force.

When the City of Toronto failed to act, Global News also called 311 and was told that protecting the rights of people using service dogs was not “a city issue.”

In fact, the city can investigate any business they license that has allegedly denied service to a person with a guide dog. Bylaw officers can issue a $500 fine on the spot if they deem it appropriate.

“As a result of your story we actually had a look at what information we provided 311 and I do believe there is a gap there,” said Tracey Cook, the executive director of Municipal Licensing and Standards for the city.

She also told Global News 311 operators will receive the proper information and training right away.

Last week, Global News spoke to the sushi restaurant owner. Cook said because of that interview an officer went to the restaurant to advise the owner of his responsibility.

Bourdeau said the city’s response is reassuring, but that her larger concern remains the police. She wants the police chief to implement compulsory training on their responsibilities under the Act.

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