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Father files rights complaint after stroller banned from bus

The stroller wars are heating up.

The debate over plus-sized prams, already contentious and the cause of bans and boycotts, is moving into the legal realm. A Halifax man filed a human-rights complaint on Friday to assert his right to use the bus with his young twins and their stroller.

Mohammad Ehsan says Metro Transit's policy of allowing drivers to determine whether to allow larger strollers on buses leaves parents vulnerable to second-class treatment.

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On Jan. 2, a driver told Mr. Ehsan and his wife that they could not ride a city bus with the stroller. He said he complained to Metro Transit officials, but his concerns were brushed off, leading him to file with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission.

Metro Transit spokeswoman Lori Patterson said Mr. Ehsan and his wife would have been welcome on the bus if they'd been willing to hold their children and fold their stroller. But Mr. Ehsan said he believes that would be an unsafe way to travel.

Metro Transit guidelines allow "smaller" strollers, defined as those up to 105 by 56 centimetres, and asks that babies be carried while on buses. Drivers have explicit authority to prohibit larger strollers.

"Parents take buses with fear because they don't know how they will be treated," said Mr. Ehsan, a PhD student and part-time instructor in the department of political science at Dalhousie University.

"There should not be any rule that limits people's mobility, limits their access to public services because they have a stroller."

Policies on strollers vary among transit services across Canada. Toronto and Winnipeg allow any that will fit on board. Vancouver permits strollers smaller than 120 by 60 centimetres, provided there is space.

Attitudes appear to be hardening on both sides of the stroller issue. Many stores prohibit large prams, raising the ire of parents who deem this "anti-baby" behaviour. But proponents of restrictions say SUV-style strollers are too big to navigate tight or crowded conditions.

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Ms. Patterson said Metro Transit has received numerous complaints about strollers causing inconvenience. She said transit officials investigated Mr. Ehsan's initial complaint and found the driver acted within his authority.

"A bus is a fairly confined space and we're trying to be all things to all people," she said. "We've had quite a few calls saying, 'I travel the bus and I see strollers and they're a hassle, I have to climb over them.'"

Mr. Ehsan acknowledges that his family's stroller is slightly larger in one dimension than the Metro Transit guidelines, measuring 115 by 49 centimetres. But he says that, with six-month-old twin boys and no car, transit is the only option.

Mr. Ehsan said he was treated rudely by the driver in the Jan. 2 incident. He said that after he complained, supervisors told him that the bus, which was largely empty at the time, could have become crowded later on the route.

He went to the local media with his story and the coverage prompted a sharp debate online.

"Good for the driver for not allowing the stroller," said one person posting at the Canadian Public Transit Discussion Board. "Maybe they should go out and buy a less expensive and smaller stroller."

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Mr. Ehsan insisted he is looking only for an apology and a more flexible policy.

"I'm not seeking compensation, I need changes in the guidelines," he said.

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About the Author

Oliver Moore joined the Globe and Mail's web newsroom in 2000 as an editor and then moved into reporting. A native Torontonian, he served four years as Atlantic Bureau Chief and has worked also in Afghanistan, Grenada, France, Spain and the United States. More

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