Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Provincial government should allow experienced drivers from war-torn countries to skip driving-test waiting period similar to other newcomers, Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario Finds

“This is the very essence of arbitrariness”
— Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, Shyesh Al-Turki v. Ontario (Transportation) 2020 HRTO 392

The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario has found that the Province of Ontario has been discriminating against refugees by not allowing experienced drivers from war-torn countries exemptions to the one-year waiting period before their final driving tests — an option available to other newcomers in Ontario as well as refugees in other provinces.

“Refugees will be on an equal footing with anybody else when they come to Ontario with regards to obtaining a full driver’s licence in a timely manner,” says Hassan Ahmad, Faculty of Law SJD candidate and lawyer for complainant Shyesh al-Turki, a refugee from Syria.

Read more in the Toronto Star

The IHRP has been supporting Mr. Ahmad who has brought the case before the Tribunal on behalf of Mr. Al-Turki, a Syrian refugee who drove for about 15 years in Syria before resettling to Canada with his wife and children. The Ontario Human Rights Commission also intervened on constitutional grounds, highlighting the far-reaching importance of these issues. This decision rounds out a two year long proceeding at the Tribunal and is welcomed by migrant justice advocates like Omar Khan, who has been assisting Mr. Al-Turki and his family throughout this process.

The Tribunal specifically found that the onerous requirements imposed on refugee drivers are discriminatory: “[Mr.Al-Turki] could not go back to Syria. If he did, it would be dangerous. Given the ongoing civil war, he could be killed…The policy perpetuates arbitrary disadvantage, in so far as the ability to satisfy its requirements is based on the condition in the country an individual is from, not on the capacity or merits of the individual. This is the very essence of arbitrariness,” says tribunal adjudicator Josee Bouchard in her 46-page decision, released last week.

This case marks a victory for the International Human Rights Program (IHRP) team and a reminder of the importance of creative advocacy and collaboration for those who need it most.

“Changing this policy will help a lot of people find work. Driving is very important for so many refugees and it allows us be productive,” says Mr. al-Turki. “For me, Canada is a very good country, characterized by safety, tolerance and love. The people are kind and helpful. I would like to pay back Canada and be able to work.”

Republished from the IHRP press release