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Pandemic traffic changes in Stanley Park were discriminatory, group alleges in human rights complaint


Five people who are elderly or have disabilities are taking the Vancouver Park Board to task over the decision to implement traffic changes in Stanley Park during the COVID-19 pandemic.

They’re doing so with the help of human rights lawyer Philip Rankin, who is representing them pro bono.

“Everybody's a volunteer; we have no money,” explained Rankin. “We are the David, they are the Goliath.”

But that hasn’t held them back from taking their complaint against the board and the City of Vancouver to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, where a hearing is finally underway after nearly two years.

They launched their complaint at the start of the pandemic, when the park board closed Stanley Park to vehicle traffic for about two months.

Rankin said his clients – an elderly individually with a heart transplant, a man with multiple sclerosis, a paraplegic, an elderly woman with dementia and an elderly cancer survivor – needed their cars in order to access the crown jewel.

“We're saying disabled people under the Human Rights Act and elderly people under the Human Rights Act are entitled to the same services as able-bodied people. And if you discriminate against services, such as going to a park, then you are violating the Human Rights Act,” he explained.

Since June 2020, many parallel and angled parking spots have disappeared to make room for a temporary bike lane on Stanley Park Drive.

Rankin said some attractions are too far from the parking lots for people with mobility issues.

“What they feel is that they're basically persona non grata, that the park is for other people – for young people, for other people,” he said. “Not for the elderly, not for the disabled.”

In the two years since the complaint was first filed, Rankin said his clients’ health conditions have worsened. One can no longer drive, another now requires two canes instead of one, and the woman with dementia has seen her health go downhill.

“These two years have hurt them. They've gone backwards in their health. And a lot of them see that the decision of the park board has contributed to their ill health to some degree,” he said.

The complainants are hoping the crown jewel will return to how it was before the pandemic.

They’re also looking for an apology from the park board, and for the board to guarantee public consultations before making changes that would impact the elderly and disabled.

The hearing started March 11 and is scheduled to go until March 20. Top Stories

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