Some Toronto police still unaware of guide dog enforcement despite promise

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Some Toronto police still unaware of guide dog enforcement year after Global News series
WATCH: One year ago Toronto Police promised to ensure all staff are aware of their role in investigating guide dog complaints, Global News went back and put them to the test. Christina Stevens has the results – Apr 19, 2016

A guide dog has opened up whole new worlds to Karoline Bourdeau, but it has challenges of its own.

A year ago when Bourdeau was denied service at a restaurant due to her guide dog, Toronto police refused to investigate, telling her it’s not their job.

To convince police it is their job, Global News had to send them the Blind Person’s Rights Act and show them a statement from the Ministry of the Attorney General.

“We were wrong in this,” admitted police spokesman Const. Victor Kwong.

In March 2015, Toronto police promised to make sure all staff were made aware of their legal obligation to investigate.

READ MORE: Woman challenged by Tim Hortons over guide dog last year not happy with response

One year later Global News called three divisions at random, and asked whether it is a police responsibility to look into denial of service due to a guide dog.

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“It’s not, it’s not,” said the person who answered at 23 Division.

It was the same at 42 Division.

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“It’s not a police matter as such but it can be brought to the attention of the owner of the restaurant,” was the response at 11 Division.

That came after the officer checked with someone else at the station.

“That’s atrocious. It’s horrible. How could they not know?” was Bourdeau’s reaction to the lack of knowledge.

After Global News’ intervention last year, Bourdeau made a formal complaint at 41 Division.

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

A call to them revealed even staff at that division didn’t seem to know they could investigate guide dog complaints.

“You have to call 311,” said the officer on the phone.

She is correct, the city can also investigate through bylaw enforcement, but police have a role to play as well.

“It has nothing to do with the police, whatsoever?” the woman was asked.

“No,” she answered.

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“I’m sorry, I just find that absolutely unbelievable,” said Bourdeau, recalling how she went personally to 41 Division a year ago, with a Global News camera crew.

READ MORE: Waterloo school refuses to clarify why boy with autism can’t bring service dog to class

Despite multiple requests over several days, Toronto police refused to allow Global News to interview anyone from the police service who is involved with, or responsible for, the training they promised.

Instead a spokesperson was provided to explain how officers were informed.

“This message was conveyed by training day over to all the unit commanders,” said Kwong.

He did not have more specific details.

“I don’t know the exact messaging that was given across,” said Kwong.

Emailing all members the information is not an option.

“If we sent an email for every single message, that would be a lot,” said Kwong.

READ MORE: Toronto woman drops human rights complaint over guide dog after apology

But police have renewed the training message this year.

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That renewal happened after Global News called requesting an interview on the topic.

All of it has left Bourdeau disheartened.

“I don’t know what it’s going to take to get them to understand and properly train their officers.”

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