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AVAILABLE EXPERT – Support animal rejected by Air Canada

Monday, December 7, 2015

Queen’s University mental health expert Heather Stuart is available to comment on veteran Kate Skywalker’s emotional support animal being rejected by Air Canada. The former Canadian solider was given a medical discharge after being diagnosed with depression and anxiety. She relies on her emotional support animal, a cat, to keep her calm in stressful situations.

Air Canada has a travel policy that excludes services animals that offer emotional support.

“Whenever someone is denied an important right on the basis of their disability status, discrimination has occurred. Organizations must take care to ensure that their policies and procedures do not intentionally or unintentionally treat individuals with emotional disabilities unfairly, or deny them goods or services that are afforded to others, in this case other people with physical disabilities,” says Dr. Stuart, the Bell Canada Mental Health and Anti-Stigma Research Chair.

“Air Canada's unfortunate position with respect to Ms.Skywalker's emotional support animal has violated their own policy on the matter (which allows certified service animals) based on the assumption that service animals are appropriate only for people with physical disabilities. This is all the more unfortunate given that the service animal belonged to a former Canadian soldier who has experienced mental health problems related to her time in the military.”

To arrange an interview, please contact communications officer Anne Craig (613-533-2877 or anne.craig@queensu.ca) or Chris Armes (613-533-6000 ext. 77513 or chris.armes@queensu.ca) at Queen’s University News and Media Services Department in Kingston, Ont., Canada.

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