October 09, 2012

“€œOnly in America,”€ you sign? Sadly, no.

In 2001, a bunch of Canadian cripples complained to the Ontario Human Rights Commission (of song and story) that one of the city’s last grand old movie palaces wasn”€™t wheelchair friendly.

Good thing they didn”€™t have to take their case to the Quebec HRC”€”their own building isn”€™t wheelchair friendly, either.

While she has trouble getting around in most ways, one of the complainants, Barbara Turnbull, had much earlier managed to maneuver her unfortunate status as paralyzed crime victim into a job as a workmanlike reporter for the country’s largest daily paper. In a nation where journalism jobs are mostly reserved for genetic lottery winners, I can only kick myself”€”because, hey, I still can”€”that I didn”€™t think of getting shot in the spine m’self.

Conveniently located at the city’s Yonge and Bloor hub, the Imperial movie theater still did dandy business and was one of the Toronto International Film Festival’s principal venues.

But so what? The OHRC awarded the complainants $8,000 in “€œdamages,”€ and one of them got two grand for “€œmental anguish.”€ On account of what? Not being able to see Terminator 2 on the big screen?

So the Imperial closed down rather than blow the hundreds of thousands needed for retrofitting.

But it gets “€œbetter”€: Two years later, a condo developer bought the highly coveted downtown property. During demolition, what was left of the Imperial crashed onto the business school next door, and fourteen students were injured. One died.

So let’s see: We started out with five cripples in 2001, and in 2003″€”thanks to another one of those noble campaigns for social justice, equality, and diversity”€”we ended up with…more cripples!

By the way, that Ontario Human Rights decision regarding the Imperial came down on September 11, 2001, along with a couple of much bigger buildings a bit south of here.

The handicapped insist on living like the rest of us”€”and almost always at our expense. It’s an odd kind of “€œindependence”€ which, when push comes to shove, relies so heavily on everyone else’s involuntary cooperation.

Image of handicap sign courtesy of Shutterstock


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