Victory! National Standard for Service Dogs Has Been Withdrawn

On March 27th, the Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) quietly withdrew their plan to develop a national standard for service dogs. It was not until April 17th that the CGSB confirmed this action in an email to members of its technical committee on service dogs, saying:

“After careful consideration, CGSB has withdrawn its intent to produce a National Standard of Canada for Service Dogs and as a result, ongoing technical committee work is not anticipated at this time.”

With that, the massive lobbying effort against these standards reaches a subdued but satisfying point of success.

There have been so many people involved in lobbying against these ill-conceived standards. We at Canadian Guide Dog wish to offer our sincere thanks to guide dog users from across the country, guide dog training schools from across North America, the accrediting bodies (International Guide Dog Federation, and Assistance Dogs International), the good folks over at Hands Off Our Harnesses who created and spearheaded the lobbying effort, and the many, many allies who worked on this in big ways and in small. Every voice had a positive impact.

We have been advised that CGSB is now under review by the Standards Council of Canada (the body that provides accreditation for CGSB to develop standards in Canada). We should not read anything into this review; it is normal for an accrediting body to conduct periodic reviews for organizations to maintain their accreditation.

While guide dog users may celebrate a success, it should be a muted celebration for three reasons.

First, these standards were originally started to help veterans who suffer from PTSD. The process was hijacked by a small group and veterans are the ones who will suffer further delays. We support veterans and the efforts of Veterans Affairs to ensure those who suffer from PTSD can access well-trained service dogs that meet their unique needs. As we have said throughout our lobbying effort, dogs trained by ADI-accredited schools are the best solution. Funders such as Veterans Affairs and the Royal Canadian Legion should keep this in mind and more effectively manage their charitable giving to help eliminate financial malfeasance from the industry.

Second, we must remain vigilant. This episode illustrates how fragile human rights can be. It is incumbent on all those who became involved in this lobbying effort to continue being watchful, as new efforts might emerge to undermine the rights of guide dog users in Canada.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, our work is not done. In Canada, guide dog access rights fall within provincial jurisdiction. Some provinces have addressed this through specific legislation, while many others have not. Although some of the existing legislation could be improved, our biggest concern is for those provinces who have failed to legislate. Reliance on a code of human rights is inadequate, as the recent CGSB experience has shown. Had the CGSB standards been approved, those who live in provinces with specific legislation would have had some legal recourse. Those in other provinces would have been subsumed under the badly-flawed standards. It is up to guide dog users in each province to lobby their elected officials, raise awareness, and build support in their communities to enshrine appropriate access rights protection in specific provincial legislation. Although this must be a provincially-focussed effort, it would benefit from national visibility and reporting.

For now, however, we will file the massive stack of CGSB-related papers, notes, and news clippings into a drawer for safekeeping, and raise a glass of wine to all of you for your efforts and support. The next battle can wait a day or two…

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What Have We Been Doing? An Activity Report

Because we have been silent on this blog for a couple of months, you might think things have been quiet at Canadian Guide Dog; but we have not been idle. Once our report, Canadian General Standards Board Service Dog Team Standard: A Failed Process, was complete, we shared the information with key decision-makers and influencers. For the record, here is a run-down of what we have been up to.

Government of Canada

We wrote letters to ministers within the Government of Canada to share A Failed Process, and to express our concerns with the CGSB process. Specifically, we wrote to the Prime Minister and the Ministers of Public Service & Procurement (PS&P), Veterans’ Affairs (VAC), National Defence (DND), and Sport & Persons with Disabilities (S&PD). We wrote to the leaders of both opposition parties and the specific critics from both opposition parties for each of the affected ministries. We also wrote to staff within PS&P and CGSB.

We received responses from the Prime Minister and the Ministers of DND and VAC, as well as staff from PS&P.

Overall, the message we received is that our letters and our report, along with those of many others, are being considered in the preparation of the next draft of the service dog team standard, which will be released for public comment sometime in 2018. Not very earth-shattering messages to receive from our government! The Minister of Veterans’ Affairs, Seamus O’Regan, seems to be the most responsive on the issue, and has encouraged continued engagement.

Of note, there was no response from Minister of PS&P, Carla Qualtrough, who is probably bogged down by the crisis with the Phoenix Pay System. Nor was there a response from the beleaguered Minister of S&PD, Kent Hehr, who is intent on either ignoring or actively snubbing all his stakeholders since being demoted to this portfolio.

Interestingly, we received no responses from any member of the opposition parties, despite sending letters and A Failed Process to ten of them.

In addition to correspondence, we had an interesting conference call with staff from the Office of Disability Issues within the Ministry of Employment and Social Development. They were polite and listened carefully to our concerns, promising to take them into account in any future interactions on the CGSB file, but we were disappointed by their strong defence of CGSB’s process, despite the evidence of process failure that was included in our report.

Provincial and Territorial Governments

We wrote letters to all premiers and related ministers within the ten provincial and three territorial governments to share A Failed Process, and to express our concerns with the CGSB process and how a national standard could impact the provinces and territories.

Setting aside the inevitable “auto responses” and polite acknowledgements, we have received responses from all provinces except Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island, and we have not yet heard from the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut.

The provincial responses fall into two camps. Mostly, they indicate that existing provincial legislation will continue to prevail, and if they use the CGSB work, it will only be as one piece of a broader consultative process. A couple of provincial responses indicate a lack of understanding of the issues – a willingness to adopt a national standard as a matter of course, simply because it is a national standard, and not recognizing that standards do not hold the force of law.

Other Correspondence

We also shared A Failed Process and had productive interactions with the International Guide Dog Federation. We believe they used the report in their subsequent participation on the CGSB committee.

During the preparation of A Failed Process, we made two “Access to Information” requests to the Government of Canada. We received a voluminous response from VAC (542 pages), and are beginning to work through it now. We still have no response from PS&P, which puts them in violation of the Access to Information Act – we will be following up shortly.

We also shared A Failed Process with Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael, California, since they had expressed an interest in the CGSB issue and were looking to make more information available to their Canadian graduates.

Where To From Here?

Although we have been quiet on the blog, we feel that progress has been made in raising awareness of our concerns and in preparing the ground for responding to the next draft of CGSB’s service dog team standard. We are not sure when that will happen; we will let people know as soon as we hear something.

For your reference, this is the link that Minister O’Regan gave us for when the next draft becomes available: Public Services & Procurement Canada – Draft Documents Available for Public Review .

The Fragility of Human Rights

In many parts of the world, especially for those who are impoverished or disenfranchised due to their ethnicity or other factors that make them “different” from the majority, basic human rights are only a dream. Just as frightening are those countries where a minority holds power and denies rights to those in the majority. Those of us who live in western democracies can be forgiven for thinking with self-satisfaction that our rights are secure and protected under law. Actually, most Canadians don’t think much about human rights on a day-to-day basis. However, even within our own country, human rights laws can be contentious, and those in positions of power can take advantage of others.

The important thing to understand is that, despite our rhetoric that human rights are fundamental, inalienable, and transcendent, they still boil down to the expression of a power relationship. Those who have power enshrine in law how those without power will be treated. Those who have power police themselves, and set up commissions or tribunals to adjudicate situations where self-policing breaks down. However, penalties for breaching Canadian human rights legislation are typically weak or non-existent. We rely very heavily on the honour system – we Canadians are a polite people, after all.

I am thinking about human rights today for two reasons.

The first reason relates to a news article. Earlier this week, a woman in Regina who uses a guide dog was denied service at Chuck E. Cheese (you can read about it here). The restaurant chain has apologized and says that staff training will occur; however, such an apology does not take away the humiliation that she must have felt while her kids watched their mother arguing and ultimately being forced to leave. The lesson learned by her children is that some teenage kid has more power than their blind mom – reinforcing the diminished role that our society offers to those with disabilities. I can guarantee that the corporate apology was not given in front of her children with enough fanfare and ceremony to erase this lesson from their minds. A human rights complaint has been filed, and we will see what those in power (Saskatchewan’s Human Rights Commission) decide to do about those others in power (corporate executives at Chuck E. Cheese). Meanwhile, guide dog users keep trying to inform, educate, convince, and cajole people about the law, one bad encounter at a time. Sadly, this woman’s experience is all too common.

Those who require protection through human rights legislation must rely on those in power (our government) to enforce the laws, weak as they may be. But what happens when it is the government that is violating the rights of guide dog users? This brings me to the second reason for writing about human rights.

I have written extensively about the Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) and their ill-conceived efforts to create a service dog team standard. The Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) has become involved with CGSB’s service dog team standard process. The CHRC says:

“The CHRC has concerns that the process the CGSB has undertaken has not sufficiently consulted, included, and considered the views of those persons with disabilities affected by the standard, and will not produce a standard that protects human rights. Further, we are concerned that the process so far, and the draft standard – especially if implemented widely – could create, rather than remove, barriers for persons with disabilities.”

The CHRC goes on to make eight recommendations to CGSB. I encourage you to read the full statement, which can be found at the “Hands Off Our Harnesses” blog (you can read it here).

Two examples; one where corporate Canada fails to properly prepare their staff to meet the public, and another where the Government of Canada fails to meet the test of its own Human Rights Commission. Without thought or consideration for vulnerable Canadians, those in power continue to violate human rights. It is tiring – indeed, exhausting – yet, we must stand on guard, oh Canada, and take every opportunity to highlight for Canadians how fragile our human rights remain in this country. And, how weak is our human rights legislation when the CHRC can make recommendations, yet CGSB continues to plow ahead with their process.

On the topic of “standing on guard”, because CGSB is continuing their process and plans to release another draft of their service dog team standard, all affected guide dog users, allies, and organizations must begin preparing to respond to draft two. In our next post, we will consider what questions might be important for you to ask yourself in preparing to comment on the pending second draft.

Until then, travel safely, and give your pooch a pet from me.

Thoughts About “Voluntary”

Voluntary: done, acting, or able to act, of one’s own free will; not constrained or compulsory; intentional. From the Latin, voluntas: will, free will, choice.

When someone says, “I volunteer in my community”, you might not know the specifics, but there are five concepts embedded in that simple statement. First, they are taking some form of action. Second, it is a positive thing they are doing. Third, they are acting of their own free will. Fourth, they will not be paid. Fifth, they are in control.

When someone says, “It will be voluntary for my community”, you might not know the specifics, but again, there are five concepts embedded in the statement. First, some form of action is happening to them. Second, it is not universally seen as a positive thing. Third, they only have two choices – either do the thing, or don’t – so they are not acting of their own free will. Fourth, there will be a cost. Fifth, they are not in control.

Volunteer and voluntary; two similar words with the same Latin derivation, but having very different meanings. One is universally positive, the other is often a trojan horse designed to be readily accepted while hiding ill intent or negative consequences.

The Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) is developing a service dog team standard that could become a National Standard of Canada. (Refer to our report entitled “A Failed Process” to learn more about the process that was followed up to September 2017). They have emphasized that the standard would be voluntary. In a recent conversation with officials from the Accessibility Secretariat (a unit within Employment and Social Development Canada), they emphasized that CGSB standards are voluntary. This has become the panacea with CGSB’s standard, but the word, “voluntary”, puts me on edge.

Let us suppose that the voluntary service dog team standard is implemented in the form that was published in the spring of 2017. Let’s follow a typical guide dog user over the course of a day.

Our hero, Ms. X, has a trip planned this weekend. We first learn that a restaurant in Ms. X’s home town has decided to adopt this national standard. On her way to the airport, she enters the restaurant and is turned away because she has no evidence that she and her guide dog comply with the National Standard of Canada. Then, on arriving at the airport, we see that the airline has decided to implement the voluntary standard. Ms. X and her guide dog are not allowed to board the flight because she has not allowed an assessor to enter her home, examine her financial records, and test her dog. She calls for a taxi to take her home, but the cab company has implemented the voluntary standard and each driver at the airport says, “no paperwork, no ride”.

Canadian guide dog users should not be comforted by the idea of a national standard being voluntary. As you can see, the voluntary standard might be voluntary for many, but it would certainly be mandatory for those who sit at the end of the power continuum. And if someone tries to tell guide dog users that the standard would be voluntary for them too, we need a clear and strong indication of what will be the penalty against those who refuse to honour each guide dog users’ choice, and what will be the training process for all police forces in Canada so we can call upon them to enforce our rights.

The CGSB service dog team standard is the result of a failed process. It is ill-conceived, ill-informed, and fraught with problems, not least of which is the claim that it will be voluntary. The standard must be stopped.

Canadian General Standards Board Service Dog Team Standard

A Failed Process – Executive Summary

Now that we have completed all six chapters of our report, “A Failed Process”, we are providing this executive summary for ease of reference. We understand that the CGSB and its Committee on Service Dogs is meeting this week to consider feedback that they have received. However, it is important for advocates to keep this issue in the public eye, keep in touch with your Member of Parliament, the Ministers responsible, and the Prime Minister’s office to ensure that this failed process is stopped.

Executive Summary

Key Topics:

  • Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB)
  • Service dogs, guide dogs
  • Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC)
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Assistance Dogs International (ADI)
  • International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF)

Issue:

CGSB was asked to develop a standard related to PTSD dogs; however, they expanded their scope to include all guide dogs and service dogs in Canada. They released a draft standard for public comment and there was a significant negative response. Advocates want the draft standard withdrawn and the standard development process stopped.

Background – Chronology of Events:

Starting in 2005, American service dog schools started placing dogs with veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Many found that their dogs not only mitigated physical disabilities, but were also helping them cope with PTSD.

Since that time, ADI, the global service dog accreditation organization, spearheaded efforts to develop standards and accreditation processes specifically for PTSD dogs. Once the standards are ratified by the ADI membership, any service dog organizations seeking accreditation for programs to place dogs with handlers who have military-related PTSD will have to meet these standards. This includes the eight ADI-accredited schools in Canada.

In Canada, beginning in 2013, VAC began responding to advocates regarding PTSD dogs for Canadian veterans. At the same time, a private sector organization asked CGSB to develop standards in this area.

In May 2014, Parliament’s Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates was advised of CGSB’s intention to pursue a standard for PTSD dogs. By the Spring of 2015, after a series of meetings and consultations, CGSB and VAC had signed an agreement for CGSB to develop a National Standard of Canada for service dogs. It is not clear why VAC and CGSB chose to ignore the relevant developments in the United States.

In October 2015, CGSB held the first meeting of its newly-formed Committee on Service Dogs to develop the standard. During this first meeting, the scope of the project was changed from a focus on PTSD dogs to include all guide dogs and service dogs in Canada. No effort was made to retain the existing scope, nor was an effort made to advise additional stakeholders of the change, or to reconstitute the committee to reflect the new interests that had been incorporated.

From May to June 2017, CGSB’s Public Enquiry stage for the draft service dog team standard was opened. However, there was no broad public announcement, so those additional Canadians who had been incorporated into the scope remained largely unaware of the draft standard. It was only when two American guide dog schools alerted their Canadian graduates that alarms were raised.

To make matters worse, appeals needed to be made through the Canadian Human Rights Commission and Members of Parliament to force CGSB to make their documents and processes accessible to blind Canadians who were being impacted.

Concerns Expressed by Advocates:

CGSB and its Committee on Service Dogs started with a mandate to address issues related to PTSD dogs, but quickly changed the scope to incorporate all guide dogs and service dogs in Canada.

They ignored existing international accreditation and standard-setting bodies. On the PTSD front, they ignored significant developments and progress regarding PTSD dogs in the United States, resulting in PTSD dog standards in Canada being delayed years longer than they needed to be, more veterans suffering longer, and more unaccredited trainers victimizing veterans and funders.

CGSB and its Committee on Service Dogs did not merely intend to develop a voluntary standard, as they have stated to the public; they intended to develop public policy that would become mandatory. In this effort, CGSB failed to apply good public policy principles, failed to use good public policy processes, and did not develop any implementation plan.

CGSB and its committee ignored existing provincial laws and federal government initiatives; they strayed from statements made before a committee of Parliament, and ignored broad policy direction from the Prime Minister.

Their policy has been positioned in a way that would violate the human rights of vulnerable Canadians.

CGSB has no legal jurisdiction to make public policy related to human services, and they proceeded to develop the draft standard without the participation of those who hold responsibility – the provinces.

The process that CGSB and its committee followed lacked transparency and accountability, and the committee itself was constituted in a way that severely under-represents impacted people, and over-represents organizations and individuals who have conflicts of interest.

To make matters worse, each committee member and all participants are required to sign a nondisclosure agreement that places the proceedings in a state of secrecy. Even now, advocates are reticent to meet with the committee because their subsequent advocacy efforts would be hampered by the secrecy oath they are required to sign.

Recommendations:

Stop the Current Process

Stakeholders have lost trust in both the process and the participants; no amount of fixing will win that trust back. So, the most effective first step to get back on the right track is for the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and the Minister of Veterans Affairs to withdraw the draft standard and abandon the current process.

Introduce Accountability and Acquire Policy Development Expertise

Stakeholders have lost faith in both the process and the participants; it is not possible for CGSB to continue to lead. It is also difficult to provide a recommendation to the Government of Canada when they do not have jurisdiction for this policy area. If policy work continues at the federal level, it must be led by the Minister for Sport and Persons with Disabilities. Whatever processes unfold in the future at any level of government regarding guide dog and service dog issues, it is recommended that clear accountability for policy development and implementation be established at the beginning of the process and communicated publicly. Further, the policy development must be undertaken by those with appropriate expertise.

Introduce Transparency and Open Up the Process

Because of a lack of communication, many affected stakeholders are still unaware that this draft standard was developed and would have affected their lives. Again, it is difficult to provide a recommendation to the Government of Canada when they do not have jurisdiction for this policy area. Whatever processes unfold in the future at any level of government regarding guide dog and service dog issues, it is recommended that users are placed in a strong position to influence policy outcomes, those who might experience cross-impacts or unintended consequences are engaged, and existing accreditation organizations are represented (ADI, IGDF) so that existing accreditation and standards are used. Parties must ensure there is open communication to all those in the public that are interested at every step of the process.

Create a Three-Pronged approach to Reflect the Three Policy Problems

Recognizing there are three distinct policy problems at play, there will be different needs and different participants for developing a solution to the problems associated with 1) addressing the growing demand in the new field of PTSD dogs, 2) ensuring access rights are addressed, and 3) dealing with the variety of legal approaches across Canadian jurisdictions. It is recommended that no jurisdiction attempt to address all three issues together in one process.

In Addressing Growing Demand, Seek to Regulate Industry, Not Individuals

CGSB’s draft service dog team standard would have required assessments of every dog user in the country; this runs counter to the precepts of human rights. It is recommended that any regulatory approach focuses on regulating the dog training industry through existing, established accreditation bodies. For those who find that training their own dog is best for them, and thus there is no third-party accreditation to ensure quality, there needs to be an appropriate assessment that gives legitimacy for these dog / handler teams.

In Addressing Public Access Concerns, Build on Success

It is recommended that there be two areas of focus to enhance public access rights. First, all governments, dog users, trainers, schools, advocates, and allies have a shared responsibility within their own spheres of influence to educate the public. Second, there are jurisdictions in Canada that already have successful legislation, and policy developers must build on those approaches, rather than inventing new ones.

In Addressing Differences Across the Country, Strong Advocacy Will Win the Day

It is recommended that the Government of Canada encourage and facilitate individual Canadians, advocacy organizations, and provincial governments to work together to harmonize provincial requirements for guide dogs and service dogs to ensure legal protections are in place in every province, that those protections are consistent, and that each province recognizes dog / handler teams from other provinces without creating hurdles that become barriers to travel.

James L Menzies

September 2017

The views contained in this report are those of the author, who is responsible for and owns the content. If there are material errors or omissions, the author would appreciate hearing from you, and will make every effort to issue corrections. This report may be shared in whole or in part, but credit must be given to the author. (Contact the author at www.canadianguidedog.wordpress.com/)

A Failed Process – Moving Forward (Finding Some Wins with a Different Approach)

Canadian General Standards Board – Service Dog Team Standard

A Failed Process

Chapter 6: Moving Forward – Finding Some Wins with a Different Approach

In this final chapter, we will summarize the concerns we have covered in previous chapters. Then, in the interest of turning to a more positive tone, we will provide a very brief analysis of the original policy problem as we see it, and offer recommendations for how to find some “wins” with a different approach.

Summary

The goal we set ourselves at the beginning of this report was to mostly set aside the content of the draft service dog team standard, and instead to focus on the processes that were followed in its development. It was felt that this would help us to more deeply understand why the draft standard is so flawed.

The Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) and its Committee on Service Dogs started with one mandate – to address issues related to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) dogs – but quickly changed the scope to incorporate all guide dogs, hearing dogs, and service dogs in Canada. They ignored existing accreditation and standard-setting bodies in favour of developing a made-in-Canada solution. And on the PTSD front, they ignored significant developments and progress regarding PTSD dogs in the US, resulting in PTSD dog standards in Canada being delayed years longer than they needed to be, more veterans suffering longer, and more unaccredited trainers victimizing veterans and funders.

CGSB and its Committee on Service Dogs did not merely intend to develop a voluntary standard, as they have stated to the public; they intended to develop public policy that would become mandatory. In this effort, they failed to apply good public policy principles, failed to use good public policy processes, and did not develop any implementation plan. They ignored existing provincial laws and federal government initiatives; they strayed from statements made before a committee of Parliament, and ignored broad policy direction from the Prime Minister. They positioned their policy in a way that would violate the human rights of vulnerable Canadians. All this in an area where they have no legal jurisdiction, and without the participation of those who do hold responsibility.

The process that CGSB and the Committee on Service Dogs followed lacked transparency and accountability, and the Committee itself was constituted in a way that severely under-represents impacted people, and over-represents organizations and individuals who have potential conflicts of interest. To make matters worse, each committee member and all participants are required to sign a nondisclosure agreement that places the proceedings in a state of secrecy. Even now, advocates are reticent to meet with the Committee because their subsequent advocacy efforts would be hampered by the secrecy oath they are required to sign; thus, the Committee is working in an echo chamber of their own opinions, not hearing voices of dissent.

Is there any wonder that stakeholders have reacted negatively?

The Way Forward – A Problem Redefined

In looking for a positive path forward, we must return to the original problem that gave rise to all this activity. As mentioned earlier in this report, problem identification, definition, and analysis is at the heart of policy development. So, before offering recommendations for how to move ahead, we will provide a short beginning to a new problem analysis.

Returning to the specific issues presented to CGSB related to PTSD dogs, we see there are three related public policy problems that require different solutions.

Growing Demand in a New Field

A growing number of people who suffer from PTSD are realizing they can experience a better quality of life by having a specially-trained dog to assist them. This is a new and developing field, and experience in the US is showing good results, thus increasing the visibility of dogs as a potential aid for PTSD sufferers.

The growing demand in Canada led to a shortage of well-trained dogs from accredited training schools. This shortage had three results, each of which presents its own set of impacts. To meet the demand for PTSD dogs:

  • Unaccredited trainers entered the industry,
  • Unscrupulous trainers entered the industry, and
  • People trained dogs themselves.

No doubt, the increased demand and emergence of unaccredited trainers also created organizational stresses among accredited schools.

Funders have played a major role in exacerbating the problem by not distinguishing between accredited and unaccredited training options, facilitating the growth of unacceptable dogs in the PTSD community, and moving badly-needed financial resources away from accredited organizations.

Contrast this with the history of guide dog training, where a process over many decades has seen schools almost universally choose accreditation as the path to quality, driven by discerning funders who have almost exclusively restricted funding to accredited schools. Further, users have been very careful in choosing almost exclusively accredited schools. In the case of guide dogs, accreditation equals success.

So, the policy problem is a question of how to support the growth of a successful industry that produces quality dogs so those with PTSD can achieve positive outcomes. How can accredited schools be better supported financially? How can unaccredited schools / trainers be moved into accreditation, and unscrupulous trainers be frozen out of the industry? For those dogs that continue to be trained by individuals or unaccredited trainers, how can users, funders, and the public be assured that they are going to fulfill their role successfully?

Public Access Concerns for a New Type of Dog / Handler Team

Relatively, there is good public awareness about guide dogs, and their rights and responsibilities for public access are legally entrenched. This is the result of decades of hard work conducted by schools, advocates, and individual blind people to educate and advocate for rights. Access rights for service dogs are not as mature, but jurisdictions are beginning to provide legal backing in this area as well.

With the burgeoning PTSD dog environment, handlers have an expectation that the same access rights as other service dogs and guide dogs will be provided. However, service dog access, being newer, is not as well-understood by the public as guide dog access. In addition, service dog organizations, advocates and users have not done the same amount of on-the-ground legwork as has occurred with guide dogs.

The proliferation of poorly-trained service dogs has created a backlash against public access rights. Making matters worse, those who claim that their pet provides them with needed emotional support are trying to claim public access rights. This undermines the acceptance of all legitimate guide dog and service dog users in the public arena and gives rise to the “fake dog” problem. How can the public effectively differentiate “fake dogs” from legitimate guide dogs and service dogs?

While there are generic public access issues, some industries present specific or acute issues. Such industries as food services (restaurants, bars), transportation (taxis, airlines, trains, buses) and accommodations (hotels, motels, bed and breakfast) have all been at the centre of access-denial concerns. There are some spaces where access denial arises because they sometimes claim to not be “public” – examples include schools, rental apartments, and hospitals. Often, members of these organizations or owners of these spaces claim that the rules and expectations for access rights are not clear.

Dog users diverge on the topic of carrying and showing identification cards. Some feel this is a reasonable expectation to prove they are legitimate users with the right to access public places with their dog, while others feel they ought to be free to travel in public without being asked for an identification card to show their dog is a legitimate guide dog or service dog.

In cases of access denial, there are often legal remedies, but these require processes that are financially or procedurally onerous, or otherwise not easily available to disabled individuals. Often, in Canadian jurisdictions, remedies rely on human rights complaints, which are neither timely, nor effective in addressing the underlying humiliation and stigma that results from a case of access denial. Police officers, who are usually the only authority figure available to a dog handler during an access denial dispute, are often uninformed in this area of law, as it is a low priority for them.

So, the public policy problem is a question of how to ensure public access for legitimate dog / handler teams while eliminating those who illegally claim access rights, and reducing instances where members of the public seek documentary evidence of the legitimacy of the team. How can access rights be made clear for both the public, and for those specific industries and spaces where problems most often arise? How can access rights be most effectively enforced?

Differences Across the Country

Canada is a federation where responsibility for the laws governing guide dogs and service dogs resides with the provinces. Dog users sometimes struggle when travelling across the country because the laws they have at home do not necessarily apply where they are visiting, and rules for how they may identify themselves as legitimate guide dog or service dog users are different, or might not be accepted in different provinces.

Some provinces have laws and regulations in place, while others rely on their respective human rights commissions or tribunals to adjudicate disputes. Some have had open and transparent policy development processes, while others have remained conspicuous by their lack of attention to public access issues.

So, the public policy problem is a question of making provinces aware of issues and concerns related to the guide dog and service dog problems described above, and actively and aggressively advocating for improved and consistent approaches across the country. How can the provinces best be brought together in this area of public policy that is important to a relatively small, but determined group of Canadians? What role can the Government of Canada play in bringing the provinces together?

A New Beginning for Problem Analysis

This forms the beginning of a thorough public problem analysis. Much more ought to be done to flesh out quantitative issues (how many guide dogs, service dogs, PTSD dogs are there in Canada by province? How many people are waiting for each type of dog? How many trainers are there who are within accredited environments versus unaccredited? Etc.). Much more needs to be done to document impacts. In short, reference should be made to the good public policy principles and processes that were described earlier in this report.

That all being said, the problems that are described above, in concert with the many issues with CGSB’s draft service dog team standard that we have identified throughout this report, are sufficient for us to make some important recommendations for getting onto a winning path.

Recommendations

While most of these recommendations are directed to government, there are also important aspects that are directed to users, advocates, trainers, and schools.

1. Stop the Current Process

The preponderance of evidence from this review shows that it is a failed process. Stakeholders have lost trust in both the process and the participants; no amount of fixing will win that trust back. So, the most effective first step to get back on the right track is to withdraw the draft standard and abandon the current process.

In government, it is often easier to let an existing process run its course, even if it becomes evident part way through that the results will not be useful – in the end, the results get buried in a report that is simply never actioned. However, in some cases it is important to take the more difficult decision, which is to actively stop a process in mid-stream, admitting that mistakes were made. This is one of those cases.

In the medical profession, there is the concept of primum non nocere – “first, do no harm”. The concept holds that an existing problem might be better left alone if the solution is going to cause more harm elsewhere. In the case of this standard development process, in the drive to solve a problem related to PTSD dogs, the approach that has been chosen will do significant harm to guide dog, hearing dog, and other service dog users across the country. Surely not a reasonable trade-off, and certainly a process that must be stopped now.

2. Introduce Accountability and Acquire Policy Development Expertise

Because stakeholders have lost faith in both the process and the participants, it is not possible for CGSB to continue to lead any efforts in this policy area. We have shown that they do not have the appropriate expertise to carry out human services policy development.

A decision must be made about which area of government is responsible to lead the policy process. The answer to this is not easy, nor clear. Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) seems to have the impetus to move forward, but the provinces hold jurisdiction, and the issue affects many more PTSD sufferers than just veterans. For this reason, to the extent the Government of Canada wants to move in this policy area, it is recommended that the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities (SPD) be given the lead role, with a firm mandate to involve VAC and the provinces at the outset and throughout the process.

The idea would be to appoint a lead minister who would be accountable for the policy process, recognizing that implementation responsibilities will shift to the appropriate jurisdictions once policy solutions have been developed.

Ensure there are clear reporting requirements to the Minister so progress can be monitored and reported to stakeholders and the public. The objective is to ensure that good policy development principles and processes are followed, the project is maintained within scope, and completed in a timely manner.

3. Introduce Transparency and Open Up the Process

Because of a lack of communication, many affected stakeholders are still unaware that this draft standard was developed and might have affected their lives. Whoever is accountable for the new process must be mandated to ensure it is open and transparent to all stakeholders.

Ensure users are in a strong position to influence policy outcomes. Ensure those who might experience cross-impacts or unintended consequences are engaged. Ensure existing accreditation organizations are represented (Assistance Dogs International, International Guide Dog Federation), so that existing accreditation and standards are used, rather than reinvented. Ensure there is open communication to all those in the public that are interested at every step of the process.

4. Create a Three-Pronged Approach to Reflect the Three Policy Problems

There will be different needs and different participants for developing a solution to the problems associated with addressing the growing demand in the new field of PTSD dogs, compared to ensuring access rights are addressed, and dealing with the variety of legal approaches across Canadian jurisdictions. It would not make sense to have one process try to address all these areas; however, by making all the processes accountable to the same minister, there should be assurance of a coherent policy response across all three areas.

It will be up to the those with policy development expertise within SPD to develop and oversee the three processes, but it would be recommended that stakeholder input be acquired in developing these solutions to ensure public buy-in for each process.

5. In Addressing Growing Demand for PTSD and Service Dogs, Seek to Regulate Industry, Not Individuals

The CGSB’s draft service dog team standard that requires assessments of every dog user in the country runs so far counter to the precepts of human rights that it is necessary that we make a specific recommendation against this idea being raised again. It comes from two factors: 1) unaccredited producers being in control of the standard development process, and 2) a lack of understanding of the policy problem. As we illustrate above, the problem is not users. The problem is unaccredited and unscrupulous trainers and a lack of funding for accredited schools. The solution lies in the industry, not with the users. The solution lies in a focus on accreditation for schools and their trainers.

For those who find that training their own dog is best for them, and thus there is no third-party accreditation to ensure quality, there are solutions already in place in some jurisdictions that provide for a provincially-mandated assessment that gives legitimacy for these dog / handler teams.

6. In Addressing Public Access Concerns, Build on Success

It is recommended that there be two areas of focus to enhance public access rights.

First, all governments, dog users, trainers, schools, advocates, and allies have a responsibility within their own spheres of influence to educate the public. Most importantly, it is the exercising of the personal responsibility of the user and their dog in every-day interactions with the public to always educate and always portray a positive image of the dog / handler team so that people learn to respect them, and the next handler who comes along can benefit from an improved reception. These rights are not simply handed out to a dog user for free – there are responsibilities that go with the rights.

Second, there are jurisdictions in Canada that already have successful legislation. Build on those approaches, rather than inventing new ones.

7. In Addressing Differences Across the Country, Strong Advocacy Will Win the Day

The Government of Canada can attempt to pull provinces together to address this policy issue, but stakeholders need to be realistic – this is not an area of significant concern in federal / provincial relations; there is some skepticism that federal / provincial discussions can have any impact here.

What will have an impact is the strong and coordinated advocacy from citizens at the provincial level. Consideration needs to be given to creating a coordinated advocacy effort whereby a coalition of users and their allies can work together towards ensuring legal protections are in place in every province, that those protections are as consistent as possible, and that each province recognizes dog / handler teams from other provinces without creating hurdles that must be surmounted by users.

For advocacy to be most effective, guide dog, hearing dog, service dog, and PTSD dog users need to work together and support each others’ efforts to further the provincial consistency agenda. There are currents of dissention within each of these groups and among them, and the more people work together towards a common goal, the less these tensions will rule the day.

Conclusion and Comments from the Author

Throughout the six installments of this report, I have done my best to use publicly available material to draw a clearer picture of what happened, and why the CGSB draft service dog team standard feels so wrong to so many people. The greatest tragedy in this whole affair is that it has resulted in delays for many people who desperately need the support of a service dog to help them address the issues they face from PTSD. The solution seems so clear and close, yet years have been lost in a failed process. I know that many from the dog-user community, regardless of their specific disabling condition, are ready and anxious to help move a new process forward. The sad reality is that a solid solution that focuses on building a sustainable, high-quality PTSD dog industry that focuses on quality outcomes for people is still years away, and the years wasted on this process could have been put to much more productive use.

Although my focus is in the area of guide dogs, I will continue to advocate on behalf of all dog users. Our goals should be to ensure a healthy accreditation-based industry, to develop and sustain funding streams that make sense and support quality outcomes rather than profit motives, to ensure laws are in place that support public access and help everyone distinguish fake dogs, and to help attain consistency across the country.

–James L Menzies

A Failed Process: The Missing Ingredients for Success (Transparency and Accountability)

Canadian General Standards Board

A Failed Process

Chapter 5: The Missing Ingredients for Success – Transparency and Accountability

We have moved from “context” and “principles” in Chapter 3, to processes in Chapter 4. Now we complete our drill-down look at the work done by the Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) in its preparation of the draft service dog team standard. The last level of detail is a look at the CGSB’s Committee on Service Dogs.

Then, we will raise our sights to a higher level again. We will see how the lack of appropriate “policy positioning” underpins so much of what is wrong with the draft policy, and had there been more transparency and clear accountability throughout the development of the draft standard, it would have remained focused on the problems it was intended to resolve.

Committee on Service Dogs – Lots of Questions

As mentioned in Chapter 4, there are several significant matters related to the Committee on Service Dogs (henceforth referenced as “The Committee”).

Scope Change

Under its policies, CGSB is responsible for establishing a “Technical Committee” from among materially and directly affected organizations and individuals to develop consensus-based documents. CGSB created The Committee to meet this requirement. According to policy, CGSB and The Committee must then jointly establish The Committee’s name and scope.

Throughout this report, we have emphasized the critical nature of The Committee’s decision to broaden its own scope, despite all the previous work that was focused on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) dogs. This ability of The Committee to set its own scope is problematic in principle. It could lead to unintended consequences in public policy development as committees are likely to change directions based on the make-up of membership. Further, it opens the door to intentional manipulation of public policy if committee members have specific objectives of their own that are not aligned with the original intention of the group’s mandate.

Specifically, The Committee increased their scope well beyond PTSD dogs to include all guide dogs, hearing dogs, service dogs, and their handlers across the country. What was the motivation to do this? Why was it not stopped by CGSB? Surely someone in a position of authority would have understood that this scope change fundamentally altered the landscape on which The Committee was formed and negated all the work that had been undertaken up to that point.

An Access to Information request is outstanding that might result in the release of the original material that was given to The Committee. Once this material is available, we will be able to determine the full significance of the change. Currently, we are left with questions about how and why private citizens who were gathered to consider PTSD dogs could embark on an adventure in public policy manipulation.

Membership

CGSB policy requires equal access and effective Canadian participation to the standards development process by concerned interests. CGSB must ensure that participation in standards development is accessible to affected stakeholders, and that there is documented evidence that efforts were made to address the challenges of finding resources for participation. Setting aside the scope change, information has not yet been released publicly to substantiate how members of The Committee were chosen, so no comments can be offered on that point; however, with the scope change, the make-up of The Committee became unrepresentative of the affected stakeholders.

When dealing with human services policy, it is critical to have legal support, especially with human rights issues being central to the policy process. The Committee has no human rights legal presence, which may explain the violations of existing human rights requirements that reside within the draft standards. CGSB indicated that, because of the significant backlash to the draft standard during the public enquiry phase, a human rights lawyer has agreed to speak at the September meeting of The Committee.

There is a lack of human services policy expertise at the table. One province (Alberta) was asked to participate; however, they were not present at any of The Committee’s meetings for which minutes have been made public. Even if the one province had participated, this would not be representative of various provincial perspectives that come into play when dealing with policies that lie within provincial jurisdiction. CGSB has an obligation to fill this expertise gap on The Committee.

In CGSB policy, they must seek a balance of members on The Committee among various interests, including “users”, “producers”, “regulators”, and “general interest” members. Currently, The Committee’s membership make-up is 12 producers (40%), 7 general interest (23%), 5 regulators (17%), and only 6 users (20%). This is obviously not balanced.

Having this imbalance on The Committee that is 20% users and 80% non-users reflects Canada’s continuing history of marginalizing disadvantaged and vulnerable populations. For too long, disability policy has been made by “others”. For too long, “others” have spoken about people and for people, rather than with people. The Committee and the standard development process is just another in a long line of processes that undermines the acceptance of persons with disabilities into society in every aspect of life. There is an adage in disability policy work that should guide all CGSB’s work in the future, regardless of the topic: “nothing about us, without us”. 20% representation on The Committee is despicable.

Further exacerbating the problem of balance, of the 30 voting members, 3 (10%) represent transportation interests, which is surely an over-representation of interests for one industry on a committee for a standard that affects the entirety of a citizen’s life, not just transportation.

Potential Conflict of Interest

Members of The Committee must disclose to CGSB management any actual or potential conflicts of interest in the carrying out of their roles and responsibilities, and a member must withdraw from any discussion and voting on any work item when such a conflict of interest occurs.

Whether actual or potential conflicts of interest have been declared to CGSB has not been disclosed; however, there are several potential conflicts that are evident from the list of members, and that should have been addressed. In the documents that have been released publicly, there has been only one abstention noted in the minutes of The Committee meetings, and it is not clear what the reason for the abstention might have been.

  • When the scope of the committee’s work was dramatically increased, it seems likely that organizations focused on “companion” animals might see great benefit from having their organization incorporated in the new scope, with the greater visibility and public access rights that might ensue. Was this potential conflict declared?
  • Producers on The Committee might benefit by having a scope and standard that closes the door to those who want to obtain service dogs, hearing dogs, and guide dogs in the US. Was this potential conflict declared?
  • Those whose organizations might be producing a limited or shrinking number of dogs might benefit by creating a large assessment industry under the new requirements. Was this potential conflict declared?
  • A member may represent only one organization on The Committee; however, an instance has become evident where the work of one member in support of the draft standard is appearing on another member organization’s website. While this might not be a conflict, has anyone from CGSB assessed this activity for potential conflict? How many instances are there where members are supporting each others’ organizations, and does this support amount to collusion? Have any declarations occurred for instances where members have an association (either directly or through close inter-personal relationships) with other organizations or individuals on The Committee or with someone who may materially benefit from The Committee’s work?

It is easy to construct scenarios where conflicts of interest would be at play on The Committee. Stakeholders deserve public assurance that conflicts have been declared and addressed, and that CGSB is actively monitoring this aspect of policy development.

A Financial Burden for Public Consultation

We have emphasized the importance of consulting with affected stakeholders throughout the policy development process. It is difficult to reach out to people and obtain their views at the best of times; it is even more difficult to convince people to commit their time for a committee that is expected to have many meetings in a distant place over an extended time. Further, when the stakeholder group in question is characterized by having difficulty travelling, and often living in poverty, the challenges of obtaining involvement are large. CGSB’s approach increases these difficulties by not covering travel costs for The Committee’s members. This is highly unusual for Government of Canada policy development exercises, and dramatically reduces the pool of stakeholders from which CGSB might draw participants.

This model probably works for CGSB’s normal business when they are dealing with corporate clients, but now that they have embarked on public policy development in the human services area, they need to recognize that committee members can not be expected to pay their own way to attend meetings, nor find an organization to support them.

Oath of Secrecy

In the development of standards and public policy that will affect the daily lives of a broad sector of the public, there ought to be an expectation that The Committee consults with their organization and their stakeholders, and CGSB ought to ensure a public consultation process is facilitated. In this way, members understand they represent their organization’s or their constituents’ views above their own. The lack of a public consultation before draft standards were developed is reflective of CGSB’s unpreparedness to undertake human services policy.

However, even with the supposition that consultation would occur within organizations, each member of The Committee was required to sign a nondisclosure agreement at every meeting that effectively muzzled them from seeking input from others. This agreement requires as follows:

  • I acknowledge that as a contributor at the Technical Committee Meetings, I have access to information that is confidential or proprietary to third parties, to information that is conceived, developed or produced during the meetings and to information that is otherwise unavailable to the general public, including all discussions held during the meetings.
  • I agree that I will not reproduce, copy, use, divulge, release or disclose, in whole or in part, in whatever way or form any information described above to any person other than a person employed by CGSB and other current members of the Technical Committee. I undertake to safeguard the same and take all necessary and appropriate measures to prevent the disclosure of or access to such information in contravention of this agreement.
  • I also agree to waive all rights, copyright, title and interests to any work product, materials or any other contribution provided by me during the CGSB Committee on Service Dogs Technical Committee Meetings and that all such contributions shall be the property of the CGSB exclusively. I understand that I am required to identify any patented or otherwise legally protected items in the information I provide.
  • I acknowledge that as a member of this committee, I have a duty to remain neutral, fair-minded and non-partisan in the consideration of all issues pertaining to the work of the Technical Committee.
  • I acknowledge that I will not influence, or otherwise take part in a decision of the Technical Committee knowing that the decision might further my private or political interest.
  • I understand that if in the opinion of the Committee Leadership (Chair, Vice Chair, Secretary, CGSB representative) a conflict of interests exists as a result of the information I disclosed or any other information brought to the Committee’s attention, the Committee Leadership may require me to take steps to resolve or otherwise deal with the conflict or, at its discretion terminate the relationship it has with me.

So, despite its own policy (5.9.1 “All members shall… communicate with their organization’s management with respect to standardization activities.”), CGSB purposefully restricted the level of consultation by using a nondisclosure agreement. At best, even if members were inclined to break their agreement and engage with their work colleagues, this agreement certainly discourages members from consulting with the community about The Committee’s activities and creates misunderstandings, mistrust and difficulty in obtaining accurate information.

It is important to note that, even if The Committee had been unmuzzled, 70% to 80% of guide dog users in Canada acquire their dogs from American schools and do not belong to any member organization that sits on The Committee – an example where The Committee should have been re-cast after the scope was changed.

Tone Deaf – Missing the Necessary Policy Positioning

We are coming near the end of our analysis of the processes used to develop CGSB’s draft service dog team standard, and to finish off we need to elevate our perspective to higher-level concerns. We need to turn from details about processes and how committees work, to consider three larger issues. The first we might call “policy positioning”.

Because of its lack of policy development experience in the human services arena, CGSB and The Committee are “tone deaf” to the implications of their policy choices, so it has fallen to advocates to point out shortcomings and raise alarms.

Assess the School, or Assess the Person?

The current law in some provinces and the approach used in many other jurisdictions is to place expectations on dog training schools to produce the best product in the best way possible. Then, because of this positive output, disabled Canadians will experience the best outcomes. This places reliance on accreditation processes run by the International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF) and Assistance Dogs International (ADI). The schools accredited by both IGDF and ADI not only do excellent work producing quality dogs for prospective handlers, but they also do ongoing follow-up and support for their graduates to ensure quality outcomes continue to be achieved for the life of the dog / handler team. It is only in the case of those who choose to train their own dog (i.e., no accredited school is involved) that jurisdictions provide for an individual assessment to be administered so they may be become legitimate dog / handler teams for legal purposes.

The CGSB draft service dog team standard introduces an entirely different policy positioning. It ignores the dog training schools and places full reliance on individual assessment and monitoring of each dog / handler team. How this assessment mechanism will work, to whom it will report, how it will be paid for, and how the assessment process will be monitored are all left to the imagination. Surely, it will represent a large bureaucracy paid for either by tax payers, or by placing the financial burden on disabled individuals, many of whom are already impoverished.

Aside from the implementation and cost implications, this shift in policy positioning away from monitoring the industry and towards monitoring disabled Canadians creates a structure that will intrude on people’s lives, violate their rights, and return disabled Canadians back to an institutional, paternalistic, care-based model of services, rather than the inclusive, values-oriented, rights-based approach that currently exists.

Focus on Dogs, or Focus on People?

The policy proposal that is contained in the draft service dog team standard focuses on the dog / handler team, and looks for standardization across all types of dogs. This focus on the dog misses the importance of putting the person at the centre of human services policy development and considering all aspects from the person’s perspective.

A person-centred policy development process would have quickly identified that people who are blind, deaf, physically, emotionally, or intellectually challenged all have different needs within a dog / handler team. Why would we expect that one standard would suffice for all, just because a dog is the common denominator?

By positioning the policy in a dog-centric context rather than a person-centred context, CGSB lost the opportunity to truly identify the needs of people that might (or might not) need to be embedded in policy.

Lack of Transparency

The next “larger issue” to consider is transparency.

The process to develop public policy requires openness and transparency. On paper, CGSB policies and procedures provide an open and transparent process; however, in practice, the experience with this standard has been opaque, if not secret.

The initiation of this work by private interests, the involvement of Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC), and all the policy development work and research that might (or might not) have taken place before it was decided that a standard was required, happened behind closed doors from sometime before September 2013 until a project agreement was signed with VAC in May 2015. At that point, CGSB was required to make public their intention to undertake standards work; however, that process is seriously flawed.

Two CGSB policies apply:

“6.5.1 Notice of intent of new work item – CGSB shall publish a notification of the new work item.

6.1.15.2 Notification requirements – a. Notice of intent (notification of new work item); CGSB shall inform the Canadian public by providing their notices of intent to the CNS platform when it has taken the decision to develop or adopt a new standard or other regional / international deliverable, new edition, amendment, reaffirmation or withdrawal of an already published standard…  Notices of intent shall be submitted in both of Canada’s official languages.”

CGSB may have posted an appropriate notice of intent for their work on this standard; however, it should have been clear to them that few, if any, disabled Canadians are in the habit of monitoring standards development on obscure websites. Those that do monitor such things likely would have seen that the work related to PTSD dogs, and not become too concerned.

In an area where human services policies are being impacted and the daily lives of a broad cross-section of Canadians will be affected, there needs to be a higher standard for informing the public than simply putting it on the web. There should have been press releases and public notices; Members of Parliament and provincial elected officials responsible for disability policy should have been notified. In addition to using both of Canada’s official languages, especially when dealing with an area directly impacting the lives of blind Canadians, notices from CGSB must be available in alternative formats – this is Government of Canada policy that was not complied with.

The secrecy continued during development of the draft standard due to the nondisclosure agreement that The Committee members needed to sign.

Following the development of a draft, CGSB is required to hold a “public enquiry” stage. Again, two policies apply:

“6.7.1 Notice of public review

6.1.15.2 Notification requirements – b. Notice of public review; CGSB shall notify the Canadian public in a suitable medium of standards available for public review. The public review shall be a minimum of sixty (60) calendar days when a mature draft is available and shall be completed before the final approval by the TC. The notice shall include the start and end dates of the review period. The notice shall indicate how to obtain a copy of the draft standard. This minimum period of sixty (60) calendar days may be shortened with appropriate rationale and action to proactively inform affected stakeholders. Appropriate rationale may involve health and safety reasons for the public or the environment.”

Because Canadians who would be affected by this standard were not aware that the work was underway, they were surely not aware to look on an obscure website to discover that a public enquiry process had begun and that they should review the draft standard. We discussed in Chapter 2 the efforts that needed to be taken to achieve access to review and comment on the draft standard and the sense of disenfranchisement that resulted.

So, the process up to the public enquiry stage has been largely held behind closed doors, and the “public” enquiry stage was seriously flawed, putting those affected at a disadvantage. Had the process been more transparent, the stakeholders who were originally affected (those with PTSD) could have become engaged much earlier in the process and helped to guide the policy process in a more effective way. Once the scope was changed, an appropriate level of transparency would have ensured that affected stakeholders were informed and engaged to provide feedback that the new standard was not required in broader scope of things.

Accountability – Confusion

The final “larger issue” to consider is accountability.

There is no clear accountability for this draft standard.

  • The work seems to have been initiated by private citizens
  • VAC is involved and providing funding
  • Other federal agencies that have appeared at various committee tables include the Department of National Defense, Armed Forces Canada, Transport Canada, and the Canadian Transport Agency
  • CGSB under Public Service and Procurement Canada is running the development process
  • The Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities is conducting extensive related public consultations
  • Canadian provinces hold constitutional jurisdiction over the subject area; Alberta has a seat at The Committee, but has not participated
  • The draft standard creates an assessment / compliance function but it is not stated who will run that process nor who they will report to

No one can point to who among elected officials will be accountable to the public for the implementation of this standard and for this change in public policy. As a result, advocates have been forced to use a “shotgun” approach, blanketing many ministries with their concerns, engaging with their MPs, and copying in the Prime Minister’s Office.

With the lack of accountability, disabled Canadians are fearful that unaccredited producer organizations, uninformed businesses, and/or the public-at-large will simply begin to apply the standard without regulatory sanction, thus undermining human rights codes, and reducing or eliminating existing legal rights. At the very least, this would create mass confusion about which rules apply in which jurisdictions.

Given the participation on The Committee of Transport Canada, the Canadian Transport Agency, and the National Airline Council of Canada (fully 10% of committee votes), there is fear that the airline industry will hold some accountability for implementing the standard. The relationship between this industry and disabled Canadians has not always been positive, so there is fear they have a motive to curtail travel by disabled Canadians.

If accountability had been clear to Canadians, affected stakeholders would have known who was responsible for each process; they would have been able to become involved more effectively to communicate their needs and to redirect the process back to its original intent.

Advocacy Will Continue

Because of how things played out, guide dog, hearing dog, and service dog users have no trust left for this process or its players.

Despite the fear and suspicion that has been created, guide dog, hearing dog, and service dog users are more than sympathetic to the cause of disabled veterans who suffer from PTSD and would benefit from having a Trauma Assistance Dog (or whatever term is developed through ADI’s consultation process). Many stand ready to assist and provide advice and guidance within an appropriate policy development context. However, due to the loss of trust in the CGSB process and the Committee on Service Dogs, users are resolute in their commitment to advocate against this standard until it is withdrawn.

Next Steps

Considering all the factors we have examined in previous chapters of this report, and now seeing concerns and questions about CGSB’s Committee on Service Dogs, lack of transparency throughout the standard development process, and lack of accountability for the process and its results, as the title of this report suggests, this is a failed process.

This report is nearly complete. All that is left is to present a summary of critical concerns, draw some conclusions, and most importantly, to share ideas for a constructive path forward.

So, return in two days time for the sixth and final installment of A Failed Process. Chapter 6 is called, “Moving Forward – Finding Some Wins with a Different Approach”.

–James L Menzies