Blind runner (black shirt) Graeme McCreath with his guide Carlos Castillo run in the inaugural McNeill Bay Half Marathon in September 2011 (The duo finished 2:06). The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal ruled that the TC10K discriminated against McCreath for not allowing him to start that race ahead of the main pack.

Blind runner (black shirt) Graeme McCreath with his guide Carlos Castillo run in the inaugural McNeill Bay Half Marathon in September 2011 (The duo finished 2:06). The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal ruled that the TC10K discriminated against McCreath for not allowing him to start that race ahead of the main pack.

Blind runner wins discrimination case against TC10K

The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has ordered the TC10K organization to pay damages and to accommodate a blind runner from Saanich

The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal ordered the TC10K organization to pay damages and accommodate a blind runner from Saanich, in a written ruling handed down today.

Graeme McCreath, a Broadmead resident and running enthusiast who is legally blind, lodged a human rights complaint against the Victoria International Running Society and TC10K race director Jacqui Sanderson for not allowing him to start five minutes early in the popular April road race.

Tribunal member Marlene Tyshynski ruled that McCreath’s complaint of discrimination is justified. She ordered the race society should accommodate blind runners, that McCreath should have an early start time and that Sanderson must take anti-discrimination training. The society must also pay the 66-year-old physiotherapist $2,500 in damages for injury to his dignity and $590 for lost wages.

“It’s quite a victory. I’m very pleased with what they did. Justice and common sense prevailed,” McCreath said in an interview. “It’s been quite an ordeal for two years. I just want to work with these guys and put it behind us now.”

McCreath, who has a prosthetic left eye and only light perception in the other, and who runs with a guide, had asked the VIRS to allow him to start the 2011 race at the same time as the wheelchair racers to avoid the heavy congestion within his pace group. The race, which has seen up to 10,000 runners, launches hundreds of participants onto the route in waves based on expected finish times.

The VIRS denied his request for an early start, and argued the new route through Fairfield established in 2011 should ease congestion and do a better job of spreading runners out.

During the four-day hearing in October, McCreath testified that the crush of runners for the first two kilometres of the race had made it dangerous and frightening for him and his guide.

A veteran runner, he has competed in six TC10K races in all, including runs from 2006 to 2010. But as a two-person team in the packed 50 to 55 minute group, McCreath and his guide were unable to quickly adjust course or stop in response to unpredictable moves by sighted runners, while amid hundreds of people.

In 2009, his guide Carlos Castillo tripped over a runner who had stopped to tie a shoelace and fell onto a curb. “Although I love running, it has become a real ordeal. It is too unsafe. Most blind people would never do it,” McCreath said during the hearings.

The running society had suggested in its testimony that McCreath’s request was too close to the rollout of the new route in 2011, and would have possibly changed the structure of the race as approved by the City of Victoria, which could require more liability insurance, volunteers and special permits.

The ruling showed there was some debate within the running society board on allowing an early start time for visually impaired people – a similar running category to what the Victoria marathon started in 2010 – but the request was ultimately denied. The society argued that the new route was in fact reasonable accommodation to McCreath’s request to avoid congestion.

Tyshynski didn’t buy it. She wrote that Sanderson’s testimony at times was vague and inconsistent, and that overall, the society didn’t show any compelling reason why McCreath couldn’t start the race the same time as the wheelchair group.

The tribunal judge wrote that the society’s concerns about liability and extra permits were “speculative” and offered without evidence. The society also didn’t offer evidence that the new route in 2011 actually reduced runner congestion, she wrote.

Shannon Kowalko, vice-president of the VIRS, said the organization won’t appeal the ruling and would abide by all the orders set out by the tribunal, including establishing an early start time for visually impaired runners.

“The issues for us were in the interest of safety for Mr. McCreath and other participants on our decision not granting an early start. Certainly it was nothing to do related to being discriminatory,” Kowalko said. “It was about doing research to confirm an early start for visually impaired runners could be done safely.”

VIRC will be working with the City of Victoria to establish a visually impaired runners category with a start time before the main gun for this year’s race on April 28. “No one likes to see this happen,” she said. “We respect the tribunal and its decisions.”

McCreath is still running regularly, and he expects to run the TC10K this year.

“I’m glad of the ruling. I don’t know why (the running society) pushed it so far,” he said. “It’s just a run. It’s not the Olympics. I’m glad the tribunal got it.”

Read the tribunal ruling here.

editor@saanichnews.com

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Seattle Mariners field coordinator Carson Vitale before a game at T-Mobile Park during the 2020 season. Vitale, who grew up in Victoria, has pledged to run 10 miles a day for 2021 and to donate 50 cents per mile to the United Way of King County. (Ben Van Houten/Seattle Mariners)
Mariners coach running 10 miles a day for United Way

Saanich-raised Carson Vitale, Seattle Mariners field coordinator, plans to run 3,650 miles in 2021

Gordon English, construction manager of the Habitat for Humanity project in North Saanich, shows off the current interior of a townhouse part of the affordable housing project. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Families set to move in to affordable housing project in North Saanich by spring

Pending completion of Habitat for Humanity project comes against backdrop of new housing report

A rainbow graces the departure of CCGS John Cabot as it leaves Victoria Jan. 7. (Canadian Coast Guard/Facebook)
Follow a coast guard ship’s trip from Victoria to Halifax, through Panama Canal

Canadian Coast Guard Ship John Cabot left for St. Johns on Jan. 7

A fire sparked at an encampment between the Pat Bay Highway and McKenzie Avenue early Thursday morning. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Residents of Pat Bay Highway encampment to be relocated after early morning fire, site secured for clean up

Eviction notice issued in 2020, not enforced to allow BC Housing to connect with campers

Johnathan Lee Robichaud pleaded guilty to eight charges including sex-related offences against children and accessing, possessing and making or publishing child pornography. (Courtesy of Saanich Police)
Sentencing date moved for Saanich nanny guilty of child porn charges

Johnathon Lee Robichaud pleaded guilty to eight sex offences against children

Keith the curious kitten is seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 is Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 17 to 23

Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day, Pie Day and International Sweatpants Day are all coming up this week

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Terry David Mulligan. (Submitted photo)
Podcast: Interview with longtime actor/broadcaster and B.C. resident Terry David Mulligan

Podcast: Talk includes TDM’s RCMP career, radio, TV, wine, Janis Joplin and much more

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virtually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the march on Washington, D.C., in August of 1963. Courtesy photo
Government reinforces importance of anti-racism act on Black Shirt Day

B.C. Ministers say education “a powerful tool” in the fight for equity and equality

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Most Read