Letter sent to Guide Dog Users of Canada members, September 13, 2017.
As of noon yesterday, Tuesday, September 12, Christine Duport-Switzer
represents GDUC on the Canadian General Standards Board Technical Committee responsible for the development of the service dog teams standard. The change was made during a teleconference attended by your President, Christine, Alan Conway, and Michel Bourassa. We commend Michel for the way he conducted himself during what was certainly an uncomfortable situation.
He graciously stepped aside, which enables us to remain at the table with
Christine acting as our spokesperson. Christine will take the lead in
advocating for our position on the standard which is that guide dog teams
trained by IGDF member schools are to be exempted.
Mr. Bourassa confirmed that he was serving several masters with regard to developing the standard. Not only was he representing us, he was also
acting as lead for working group 3, and spent numerous hours assisting
others, including one of our valued life members in providing feedback to
At no time since the Technical committee was formed, and up to the present day, has GDUC ever indicated that it supports the standard. Before the advent of the public draft in May of this year, we thought it best to follow the process and focus on the standard itself. Christine and Alan put
significant time into reading drafts, writing comments, and exchanging vital information with Michel. All members of the TC were required to abide by strict confidentiality which prevented us from openly sharing what was transpiring.
When the public draft hit the streets, GDUC was all over the fact that it
wasn’t accessible, and did something about it. You will recall a post on
May 8, only 6 days after the start of the public review, that provided both
an accessible version of the draft standard, and an accessible comment form. In that post, we encouraged you to share that material with other blindness focused organizations.
Eventually, the CGSB did produce the standard and comment form in an
accessible format, but as a result of its tardiness in doing so, GDUC pressed hard for an extension of the draft review period. We were definitely not alone in voicing that demand, and ultimately an extension was achieved.
During the public review period we put considerable energy and thought into providing comments on the standard itself. The crux of our feedback
concerned the omission of critical material pertinent to guide dog teams
which the Standards Board mysteriously omitted from the draft. We also
published a document which was widely misinterpreted, but was intended to explain the complexities of the standard, and to provide some insight into the whys and wherefores of the standards development profession which are extremely difficult to comprehend by us laypeople. Again, the purpose of that writing was to give you information we thought you needed to make up your own minds.
Our acceptance or rejection of the standard, in whatever form it might take, will be determined by you, as our members, by an open vote at the
appropriate time. At this point GDUC believes that guide dog teams trained by International guide dog Federation, IGDF, member schools should be exempt from the standard.
So, rumours circulating that GDUC endorses the standard are precisely that, and have no real basis in fact. We encourage anyone who has questions about our position on the standard, or on any other topic for that matter, to pluck up their courage and contact us directly. In that way, we can have a meaningful conversation about the real issues, and thus avoid potentially damaging and negative speculation which is not in anyone’s best interest.
In closing, we express complete confidence in Christine’s ability to represent us, and offer our unflagging support as the 3-day session during which the public review comments will be dealt with draws closer. We will have more to say following those meetings, and as matters further unfold.
Please feel free to distribute this message far and wide.
President, Guide Dog Users of Canada