24 June 2003

Judicial overreach?

The following report may or may not have been carried in the Canadian press:

OTTAWA - The federal government has decided not to contest an Ontario court ruling that henceforth people unable to use their legs and confined to wheelchairs must be legally considered able to walk. The decision is a controversial one, but the court’s reasoning is that the use of the term walking to cover only those able to propel themselves with their own legs is discriminatory and violates the equality guarantees of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The court further argues that the popular conception that only people able to support their own weight with their lower limbs can be considered to walk is based on outmoded tradition that amounts to little more than atavistic prejudice. The immediate implication of the ruling is that all signs indicating the presence of “wheelchair ramps” must now be replaced with new signs calling attention to “walking ramps.” Over the longer term public school curricula will have to be changed to reflect the new court-mandated definition.

Improbable? Decreasingly so.

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