"English Only" Rule Applies To Guide Dog, Too, School Says
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
July 8, 2004
FREDERICTON, NEW BRUNSWICK--You could put this in the "You've Got To Be Joking" category:
Earlier this week, a French-speaking student was informed that he would not be able to attend an English-language immersion program -- because his guide dog does not understand English.
Quebec native Yvan Tessier, who is blind, arrived Sunday at the University of New Brunswick ready to start the school's five-week intensive course, during which only English is allowed.
Tessier, 39, discovered upon his arrival, however, that he was not registered for the course. University officials then informed him that he could not participate until his black Labrador retriever, Pavot, could understand his voice commands in English.
The immersion program is successful, officials claimed, because its rigid rules require students to speak only in English the entire time, including while in public places around the campus.
Tessier decided to take his case to the media and explain his intention to lodge a formal discrimination complaint with the province's Human Rights Commission.
"They don't have the openness of spirit to understand that it's better for me and my mobility to operate with my guide dog," Tessier told Reuters news service. "It's only 17 commands in French; it won't compromise the English program."
To the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, he said, "I can speak English [to] my dog [in] the times when I speak normally, but for the commands, it was an impossible thing to do, to speak to my guide dog in English, to tell to him the commands to guide me."
"My dog doesn't understand English at all," he told the Globe and Mail. "If I give him commands in English, he could get confused. I'm worried about my safety and the safety of my dog."
Experts who train guide dogs said that it would take at least three weeks for Pavot to learn to follow commands in English.
By mid-week, the university was softening its position.
On Wednesday, officials met with Tessier and told him he would need to follow the English-only rule -- except when he needed to give French commands to his dog.
Tessier and Pavot started the classes on Thursday.
"UNB bends, admits master and dog" (CBC News)