By Stephen Pate – PEI’s Winterjazz  festival discriminates against people with disabilities,  in effect segregation. The long flight of stairs segregated the jazz venue excluding people with a disability

People with disabilities who use wheelchairs, scooters and walkers are defacto barred from attending Winterjazz.

 

A long flight of stairs bars anyone in a wheelchair from attending Winterjazz at The Pourhouse (photo Stephen Pate/NJN)

A long flight of stairs bars anyone in a wheelchair from attending Winterjazz at The Pourhouse (photo Stephen Pate/NJN)

Why in 2017 is it OK to discriminate against people with disabilities by holding public events at locations they cannot access?  This especially timely since we are in the middle of  National AccessAbility Week

Segregation of people with disabilities is discrimination

If a public event is held that excludes a minority by act of commission or omission, it is defacto discrimination.

Discrimination is “the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people” on the grounds of race, age, sex, or disability.

That’s ridiculous, some might say. Think about it. What if the Winterjazz excluded you because you are gay, a woman, a Muslim, or another race?

Would you be offended or outraged if your gay son or daughter wasn’t allowed in the door of a restaurant, hotel, store or other public place?

he Pourhouse bar above The Old Triangle is inaccessible to disabled people in wheelchairs (photo Stephen Pate/NJN)

he Pourhouse bar above The Old Triangle is inaccessible to disabled people in wheelchairs (photo Stephen Pate/NJN)

The Pourhouse, above the Old Triangle, is totally inaccessible to people in wheelchairs.  The organizers know it and offered a feeble apology.

“It is unfortunate that it is not accessible,” said Mr. Deryl Gallant, who is standing in for Glenn Strickey Winterjazz organizer.  “I feel bad every time I walk up those stairs that our event is not accessible.”

“Paul Vienneau (bass player) is a friend and I know full well what he goes through,” said Gallant. “I won’t say I fully understand, but you know.”

No offense to Mr. Gallant but his empathy is about the same as segregationists who would preface their statements with “some of my best friends are black.”

There are plenty of accessible venues in Charlottetown, PEI but the organizers did not pick one. The last Winterjazz performance of the season was held at the Pourhouse in Charlottetown, PEI on Saturday May 27th, 2017.

This is the second time in two months a major event has been held at The Pourhouse. The last one was an April concert by American blues singer Guy Davis.   The Truth About Guy Davis And Wheelchairs 

Mr. Davis performance at a segregated bar was ironic at best. Mr. Davis appeared in a venue that would be illegal in the United States, according to the Department of Justice guidelines for the Americans with Disabilities Act. He knew it in advance. It was the only venue on his cross-Canada tour that segregated people in wheelchairs.

These kinds of signs have been illegal in California since the Unruh Civil Rights Act in 1959 and nationally since a 1964 U.S. Supreme Court ruling outlawed segregation. (photo ACLU Northern California)

These kinds of signs have been illegal in California since the Unruh Civil Rights Act in 1959 and nationally since a 1964 U.S. Supreme Court ruling outlawed segregation. (photo ACLU Northern California)

That’s doubly troubling because as an African-American,  Mr. Davis would have personal experience with the  injustice of racial segregation.  His empathy for people with disabilities, another minority,  was clearly lacking. In the end, profit was the overriding motive. It was more profitable for Mr. Davis to perform at the Pourhouse and the law on PEI allowed it.

The Law on Disability Discrimination and Segregation

The law has enough wiggle room that Canadians with disabilities are not protected from this discrimination. The Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) defines discrimination as  denying someone services or facilities or providing someone services or facilities that treat people with disabilities adversely and differently.

The CHRA only applies to federal organizations.  The public consultations on a Canadians With Accessibility will probably be limited to the Federal government as well.

Nova Scotia recently passed Bill 59 (Accessibility Act) which promises to make inaccessible events illegal in Nova Scotia.  “The legislation is designed to ensure Nova Scotia is more accessible to those who are physically or intellectually disabled. It could affect everything from building design, to how disabled people are treated in the workplace, to public transportation and education.” CBC

PEI has no similar legislation. The PEI Human Rights Act has non-discrimination language but then exempts itself from public venues.  Business people will generally take the lowest cost way out of any situation. It costs money to make sure a store, restaurant, venue or other business is accessible.

Without legislation, accessivilty only happens when businesses are enlightened. Human rights can’t depend on goodwill. If politicians can legislate building and safety codes for public places, why not accessibility.

It’s time for PEI to modernize its Human Rights Act to make sure the 22,000 Islanders with disabilities are treated the same as everyone else. There is no need for segregation on PEI.