Grismer Estate case

Case Citation:  British Columbia (Superintendent of Motor Vehicles) v. British Columbia (Council of Human Rights), [1999] 3 S.C.R. 868

Facts: Terry Grismer made his income as a mining truck driver. He had suffered from a stroke in 1984, gaining homonymous hemianopia (H.H.), which is a visual disability that reduces the range of peripheral vision. Grismer’s license was suspended by the Superintendent of Major Vehicles for the reason being his vision lacked to meet the standard of the minimum 120 degrees of field vision after having a stroke. The provincial agency had made exceptions to this standard for those with other visual disabilities that prevent the minimum vision field to continue to keep their license, but for people with H.H., it meant revocation of the license, permitting them to drive in British Columbia.

After multiple attempts of regaining a license within a seven-year period, Terry Grismer filed a complaint to the BC Council of Human Rights which concluded a prima facie discrimination where the Superintendent did not apply individual assessments and inflexibility where necessary and Grismer was awarded $500.  The Superintendent appealed this verdict to the British Columbia Supreme Court where they dismissed the appeal, but since then there has been further testing required; the Meiorin Test, making the appeal allowed and overturning the decision of the Member of the British Columbia Council of Human Rights.  The council had appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada on behalf of Grismer and his estate.

Issues: Asks if the discrimination of Grismer’s visual disability was reasonable and justified. A new test has been introduced to determine what is discrimination under the B. C. human rights legislation, but neither the Member of the Human Rights Council nor the Superintendent or the courts had the means to use it. Asks if applying the Meiorin Test to the finding of the Council of Human Rights is an absolute reason to take away the licenses of people with HH without other forms of testing against discrimination.

Arguments: Appellants: S. 3  and S. 8(1) of the Human Rights Act, S.B.C was mentioned for stating that no one should be discriminated against due to race, ancestry, religion, colour, place of origin, marital status, and physical or mental disability, unless justified or with a bona fide. The respondents agreed to this legislation. It would never be possible for the Superintendent to maintain perfect safety on the roads as there is no such thing as a perfect driver. Many people may be licensed even though their physical abilities intervene with their driving skills, little to none of which cause a suspension of their license.

If the Superintendent has licensed people with severe hearing difficulties, or those of old age with more serious health implications, people with H.H. should also be licensed. It is unreasonable to create this blanket rejection for people with H.H. There are sufficient tests, both driving and laboratory, that can be done to people with H.H to prove their ability to drive which should be done to each individual rather than “blanketing” everyone with the visual disability via a bona fide.

Respondents: The Superintendent’s standard to deny those with H.H. was logically associated with good faith, which is why making the accommodation to Grismer was unjust. The goal was to keep reasonable highway safety for the overall community. It would be unreasonable to allot large quantities of money to assess every person with H.H.to see if they are fit to be licensed.

Decision: The Council of Human Rights made no mistake to ridicule the bona fide. The Court voted unanimously in favour of Grismer. Rationale: While the goal of the Superintendent was justified, it was not a good enough reason to cause hardship on people with H.H. The idea that every person with H.H could not drive and would be a danger to society if they were driving was failed to be proven. There is much that could have been done in the circumstances. The increased cost is not a proper reason to discriminate those with H.H. under these circumstances, citing Eldridge v. British Columbia, [1997] 3S.C.R 624.

The Superintendent did not offer sufficient evidence that proved that any accommodations were applied to Grismer. He refused to lower his standards on the issue prior to and during the case and disowned a reasonable approach to his job. The goverment and it’s agencies tend to reject and overlook those with disabilities and defend it, but must learn to maintain a balanced system when dealing with all. Common sense and intuition cannot be the only things used to pass all decisions.

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