Year in Review: CTA Rules on Standing for Discrimination Complaints

In its Decision No. 425-C-A-2014, the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) directly addressed a person’s right to bring a complaint of discrimination.

In September 2014, Gábor Lukács filed a complaint with the CTA alleging that Delta Airlines’ practices around the transportation of “large (obese)” persons were discriminatory.  A preliminary issue arose as to Mr. Lukács’ “standing” (or “right”) to bring a complaint on behalf of “large” persons, defined by Delta Airlines policies, as being unable to fit in a single seat.

Mr. Lukács argued that it was not necessary for him to be a member of the discriminated class.  Mr. Lukács argued that under s. 111 of the Air Transportation Regulations, the CTA had jurisdiction to hear a complaint made by “any person” – not necessarily one affected by the issue in question.  In so arguing, Mr. Lukács relied heavily upon certain previous decisions of the CTA.  The CTA rejected this argument, finding that each of the previous decisions cited did not directly address the issue of standing.  Accordingly, Mr. Lukács was required to establish either private or public standing to bring his complaint.

Mr. Lukács asserted that he had a private personal interest in the matter, as a “large” person, being 6 feet tall and weighing 175 pounds.  His position was that, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, his qualification as a “large” person should be determined after production and interrogatories.  The CTA disagreed, explaining that the onus was on Mr. Lukács to establish his private standing – an onus he had failed to meet with any evidence on this point.

Mr. Lukács also argued that he qualified for a public interest standing on the basis that: there was a serious question to be tried in his complaint; that he was an “air passenger rights advocate” with more than two dozen complaints to his name; and that there was no other reasonable and effective means of having this matter decided.

The CTA explained that public interest standing was based upon an assessment of: (1) whether there was a serious question to be tried; (2) whether the applicant had a genuine interest in the validity of the legislation or administrative action in issue; and (3) whether there was a reasonable and effective manner to otherwise bring the issue to determination.  On consideration of jurisprudence from the Supreme Court of Canada, the CTA concluded that the second factor was fatal to Mr. Lukács’ complaint.  Accordingly, Mr. Lukács’ complaint was dismissed.

This decision provides clarity on the issue of standing before the CTA, and it signals that the willingness of the CTA to hear from “air passenger rights advocates” does not extend to complaints regarding discrimination.