On Friday [July 14], submissions close on a standard that has been drafted by the Canadian General Standards Board CGSB. It stipulates with exceptional detail what constitutes a service dog team, including the behaviour and abilities of both members of the team, the human and the dog.
Critics of the proposed standard accuse the CGSB of a paternalistic, big brother-style encroachment into the lives of disabled people, and many guide dog handlers are concerned that the proposal seems to take no account of effective industry regulation that has served guide dog handlers and the public well.
Some US guide dog schools are suggesting they may need to decline to provide service to Canadians if this standard is adopted.
It’s unclear what the consequences will be for people travelling to Canada with guide dogs that are accepted everywhere else but which will not meet this standard if it is adopted.
And if you’re outside Canada and wondering why you should concern yourself with this, well apart from displaying a sense of solidarity with those whose right to work a perfectly safe and effective guide dog team might be called into question, proponents of the standard in Canada are already talking about the prospect of elevating this to an international standard.
Yvonne Peters is a Seeing Eye Dog handler, a lawyer, and a dedicated activist on disability rights issues. In 2014, she was appointed by the Manitoba government to serve as chairperson of the Board of Commissioners for the Manitoba Human Rights Commission. That mix of skills makes her an ideal person to help explain the content and ramifications of this 61-page document.
Jonathan Mosen then speaks with Jim Kutsch, CEO of The Seeing Eye, to get a provider’s perspective.