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Ottawa court case on failure to accommodate language and diversity faces setback due to failure to accommodate language and diversity

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The Taxi industry class action suit against the City of Ottawa proceeded on January 5th with Metro Taxi co-owner Marc Andre Way on the witness stand for the entire day.

Attorney Marion Sandilands of Conway Litigation opened proceedings with a complaint to Superior Court Justice Marc Smith that insufficient French translators were available on January 4th. Observers in the court said the translation quality was “dreadful.” This was possibly at least in part because the length of the testimony would have required additional translators to rotate throughout the day so others could take needed breaks. These additional translators were not available on January 4th.

Sandilands reminded the court that when dates were discussed and agreed upon in November 2022, she and others were assured that a sufficient number of French translators would be assiged to the case. After her complaint, she received assurances from the Justice that the problem would be rectified.

Sandilands also requested the opportunity to repeat some of the questions that had been asked on January 4th in order to clarify the record; she was granted this request, although Smith reminded her the initial day of testimony would remain on the official record, as well.

Marc Andre Way is a francophone. While he is fluent in both of Canada’s official languages, he is more comfortable in his native French. During his lengthy time on the stand on January 5th speaking almost entirely in English, he sometimes struggled to find the most accurate English word to describe the complex concepts of ownership and stewardship which arise in the Taxi industry.

A key element of this trial is the allegation that the City of Ottawa “in failing to enforce its By-law and in changing the By-law, the City discriminated on the basis of race, colour, ancestry, ethnic or national origin, religion or creed, language, place of origin, or citizenship, contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Ontario Human Rights Code,” according to the class action.

Members of Ottawa’s taxi industry launched the $215 million class-action lawsuit in April 2016, alleging the city did not protect drivers and the industry when ride-sharing services hit city streets. The suit also claims the city discriminated against minority taxi plate holders by failing to enforce its own bylaw and changing the bylaw to allow private transportation companies.

The lead plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Metro Taxi Ltd., co-owner Marc Andre Way and Iskhak Mail, with the lawsuit seeking damages on behalf of taxi plate owners and brokers.