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Letter to Canadian Transportation Agency

Posted Nov 03 2010 3:51am
Open letter from Debbie Bruce Mississauga Anaphylaxis Group to the Minister of Transportation, Minister Strahl

Dear Minister Strahl,

Re: Canadian Transportation Agency -- Decision No. 431-AT-A-2010
Accommodation for Peanut/Nut Allergic Airline Travelers Ruling and Press Release:
http://www.otc-cta.gc.ca/doc.php?did=2364〈=eng

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I am writing as a parent of two children with a life threatening allergy to peanuts/nuts, and on behalf of all the families in the Mississauga Anaphylaxis Group. We are asking that you please review the CTA ruling with regards to accommodating airline passengers with a life threatening peanut/nut allergy (Anaphylaxis).

Please institute a fair and compassionate transportation policy that improves the safety of the 1.0 million Canadians who are allergic to peanuts and nuts.

Recognizing anaphylaxis as a disability is a step forward.

We do not believe the CTA ruling of a buffer zone to be appropriate or the best solution.

We believe a transportation policy that requires the airlines to not serve or sell peanuts/nuts on the plane if there is an allergic passenger on board and make an announcement to all passengers to please refrain from eating peanuts/nuts for the duration of the flight, is simpler, safer and easier to implement than what is being proposed.

Air Canada has already been doing something similar, on an ad hoc basis, if approached by an allergic individual.

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Until now, when flying Air Canada we would advise the booking agent of the allergy. When arriving at the airport we would ask the attendant at the gate for permission to pre board. We would introduce ourselves to the In Charge Flight Attendant; explain that we were travelling with someone with a life threatening allergy to peanuts/nuts, request they please not serve peanuts/nuts on the flight; and please make an announcement to the passengers requesting they do not eat peanuts/nuts on this flight.

We do not expect to be able to eat the food on board nor do we ask for special meals. With these simple steps the risk for families is greatly reduced -- never eliminated. It is a simple process and it works. All we are looking for is reasonable risk reduction.

Unfortunately this was not an official policy and cooperation of flight crews has varied significantly.

Dr. Sophia Huyer and Rhonda Nugent, on behalf of her daughter Melanie Nugent; who took their cases to CTA, did so to ask for a policy that would eliminate those instances

where the flight crew would not make an announcement and suspend serving/selling peanuts/nuts for the duration of the flight -- or even worse -- refused to board the allergic individual.

The announcement last December of a proposed buffer zone took us all totally by surprise. Since then, those of us living with anaphylaxis have been writing letters to Air Canada, CTA and the Minister of Transportation with little success.

From the perspective of the anaphylactic individual, the final proposal has not changed in any positive sense.

CTA Ruling

* There still will only be one row front and back of the allergic person in economy.

* No announcement will be made. The people immediately in front and behind the allergic person will be told - this person is allergic. Please don't eat peanut/nuts during the flight.

Neither of these address concerns over airborne protein causing an anaphylactic reaction nor over the invasion of privacy involved for the anaphylactic individual. Both of these will increase discomfort in an already stressful situation

* In addition the ruling now requires the anaphylactic individual to fill out and submit an information form 48 hours before every planned flight. Such a requirement serves little or no real purpose and the potential bureaucratic or legal implication of lost or forgotten forms is worrisome at best. Also, passengers traveling on business do not always have 48 hours prior notice that they will be taking a flight.

* It appears there now will be no accommodation at all in business/executive class.

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What is needed.

* In lieu of the above we would again ask that airlines not serve or sell peanuts/nuts on the plane if there is an allergic passenger on board.

* Make an announcement to all passengers to please refrain from eating peanuts/nuts for the duration of the flight. This is simpler, safer and easier to implement than what is being proposed.

* There should be an easy, accessible, discrete process for travellers to declare their allergy at the time of booking and boarding.

A buffer zone invades the allergic person’s privacy. Potentially, it sets them up for mean-spirited retaliation. In Canada, it is widely recognized that citizens have a right to medical privacy. They should not be forced when travelling to publicly declare their differences and vulnerability to a group of strangers. It can be very embarrassing. This is a form of discrimination based on disability.

It is not a hardship to do without peanuts/nuts for the duration of a flight, however it is a hardship for the anaphylactic to be at risk and exposed to possible ridicule. When a person’s rights infringe on another person’s health, safety or inclusion, there can be no question-we have a duty to accommodate the vulnerable. Safety has to take precedence over preference.

Peanuts/nuts account for 90% of fatal food related anaphylactic reactions.

Please institute a fair and compassionate transportation policy that improves the safety of the 1.0 million Canadians who are allergic to peanuts and nuts.

Sabrina Shannon died September, 2003 at her school in Pembroke, Ontario from a preventable exposure. Her mom has worked tirelessly to help prevent this from happening to another child.

Sara Shannon, Sabrina’s mom said “When everything is done, everything is in place, every procedure, every emergency plan…then if a child dies, we can say, ‘there was nothing we could do’. But when we know that there is something we can do to prevent this, we can’t live in a world of denial.”

AAIA(Allergy Asthma Information Association) said the introduction of Bill 3 (Sabrina’s Law) shows “Ontario’s next generation of leaders foster community values of care, compassion, empathy and joint responsibility.”

Mike “Pinball” Clemons said, “We need to challenge those who are in power to acknowledge the seriousness of allergies and asthma. We need to think of ways to make life more liveable for those with serious allergies”.

We need the compassion and empathy of our community to help us keep our children safe. We all have a responsibility to protect the vulnerable. We are all in this life together. We need to support each other whenever we can.

If you require further information or clarification, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Thank you,
Debbie Bruce
Mississauga Anaphylaxis Group




Thank you Debbie, for sharring your letter and efforts with this matter. See also Anaphylaxis and Food Allergy Association of Minnesota Recomendations
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