Toronto Sun city hall columnist Sue-Ann Levy and her dog Kishka were refused a ride in a Toronto cab because of the driver's religious beliefs.
Credits: Michael Peake/Toronto Sun
TORONTO - Last Monday morning at 1:30 a.m. I came out of Pearson Airport with my dachsie Kishka in tow looking for a limo to drive us home.
Kishka, as is the requirement whenever I fly to and from my home in Florida, was comfortably zipped up in his soft kennel.
He was half-asleep at that hour - and so hidden away - that the first driver in line headed towards me to start loading my luggage.
It was when he grabbed Kishka's kennel and realized a dog was in there that he turned around quickly and waved me away.
The second driver, also a visible minority, said "No" the moment I approached him.
The second driver - who works for McIntosh Limousine - refused to give me a reason for refusing me or his name.
Thankfully, a third driver eventually pulled up. He had no issue transporting Kishka, who promptly fell asleep in his kennel the moment we hit the highway.
The fare plus tip to my midtown Toronto home was $65.
I hadn't anticipated writing a column about this.
However after I posted my plight on Facebook later that day, I soon discovered I'd opened quite the can of worms.
What I realized is that this occurs quite often not only at the airport but in Toronto proper and is happening due to religious reasons - that is, because dogs are considered unclean in certain religions.
In fact, Gail Beck-Souter, general manager of Beck Taxi that operates about 900 cars in Toronto, confirms that if certain Muslims take a dog in their vehicle, they are required to go home and shower afterwards (before they pray).
It would seem that the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) which licenses limos that pick up at Pearson airport and the companies that operate out of the airport have bent over backwards to accommodate the religious demands of their drivers - who clearly have strength in numbers.
McIntosh Limousine manager Anne Ruddy claimed the driver who turned me down, a gentleman from India, did so because he "doesn't have to" take dogs.
But the driver would have to take Kishka if he was a service dog - that's the "law," she said.
She denied Muslim drivers in their fleet would ever turn down dogs for religious reasons contending it has more to do with "them being scared" of dogs.
Asked how she felt about a woman being denied a ride at 1:30 a.m., Ruddy said she "hates the idea" but they have to "abide by the GTAA rules" - they "don't have a choice."
I had to laugh when I read the description of their drivers on the McIntosh website, most particularly this gem: "Our drivers have taken sensitivity training..."
Guess that sensitivity training didn't include the part about not leaving a woman stranded at 1:30 a.m.
The GTAA isn't much better.
Spokeswoman Trish Krale confirmed that drivers are "not required" to take passengers with animals and if they do, they must give their vehicle a "full interior cleaning" after a ride due to dander and allergies.
However, they are not entitled to turn down someone travelling with a service animal - after which a "full cleaning" would also be required.
Although I'm not ruling out the people who are allergic to dogs, I suspect the "full cleaning" issue has been driven entirely by the religious demands of the drivers.
Besides, it's absolute B.S., in my view. Does that mean whenever a limo picks up my partner and I with our two dogs, they have to take it off the road right after to clean it? We've never been told that by any drivers.
One doesn't have to go further than the GTAA website to note how far their Consultative Committee on Taxicabs and Limousines (CCTL) will go to pander to the drivers.
One of their issues in the minutes of this past January is to have their Prayer Room relocated from the international departures area of Terminal 3 to the domestic arrivals area.
The committee also engaged in "considerable discussion" at that time around a request for special trailers to be set up in the winter months for drivers who have to pray five times a day.
Souter tells me while they "don't like it" they do give their drivers the option of not taking a dog and sometimes it is "difficult" to find a car that will take dogs.
"Some feel unclean (with dogs)," she said, adding that a "small percentage" will also not pick people up at the liquor store.
She says some will use allergies as an excuse when their concern is really religious.
Kudos to Souter for being, shall we say, less than politically correct about this issue.
Last I looked this is Canada. Seeing as they've chosen to move here for presumably a better life, the least we can expect is that they assimilate.
If these drivers have issues with dogs, maybe they should find another job so they don't have to deal with the public - and don't leave a woman stranded at 1:30 a.m.