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British Columbia (Superintendent of Motor Vehicles) v British Columbia (Council of Human Rights) (Re Grismer Estate)

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FactsEdit

The Government of British Columbia had a policy stating that it would not issue licenses to people suffering from a condition (homonymous hemianopsia (HH)) which affected eyesight. The claimant had this condition but had driven flawlessly at work and on public roads using "prism glasses". Despite this he was refused individual assessment and was not allowed to receive a license and was therefore unable to complete his job. The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal allowed Grismer to be individually tested. Grismer died shortly after this decision. This was upheld by the British Columbia Supreme Court but overruled by the Court of Appeal.

IssueEdit

  1. Does an absolute prohibition on licensing people with a visual impairment without the possibility of individual assessment constitute discrimination?

DecisionEdit

Appeal allowed, standard disallowed.

ReasonsEdit

The court applies the Meiorin test, showing that it can be used in scenarios outside of the workplace to determine if discrimination is justified. This case passes the first part because the purpose of the standard (reasonable safety) is rationally connected to the function (issuing drivers’ licenses). It also passes the second step because there is no evidence that the standard (no licenses for HH sufferers) was adopted for any reasons other than road safety. However the case fails the third step as the court finds that the standard (no licenses for HH) is not reasonably necessary for the purpose (reasonable safety). The blanket prohibition doesn't let people even attempt to show that they can drive safely.

It is clear here that the accommodation would be to allow testing. In order to succeed the government would have had to prove that to allow testing would result to undue hardship which they failed to do. Although there are clearly safety and cost concerns involved with testing, the government didn't put in any effort to determine these values, nor did they even look for alternative ways of testing. The court also says that in general, with the government, costs must be exorbitant to amount to undue hardship, as they are publicly funded and this would be seen as being in the public interest. As the standard is not rationally necessary for the purpose of reasonable road safety, it amounts to discrimination and must be removed.

RatioEdit

  • The Meiorin test applies to all standards that are thought to be discriminatory, even if they do not occur in a workplace; called bone fide justification tests.
  • The government will be held to a very high threshold when claiming that the costs of not adopting a standard amount to undue hardship as they are publicly funded and preventing discrimination is in the public interest.

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