escalator handrail

Canadians are officially not actually obligated to hold escalator handrails

One quirky Quebec court case has helped Canadians learn their rights surrounding an often-overlooked staple of many public places. 

A decade ago, Bela Kosoian was arrested, searched, detained and fined for not abiding by a sign that instructed transit-goers at a Laval subway station to hold on to an escalator handrail.

The yellow-and-black sign in question is one most Canadians are likely familiar with, as it often graces public escalators.

The Montrealer was acquitted of her $420 worth of fines in municipal court in 2012, and went on to launch a lawsuit against one of the officers who arrested her, as well as against the City of Laval and the Société de transport de Montréal.

The lawsuit and her appeal were rejected in 2015 and 2017, respectively. So, Kosoian decided to take her case to the Supreme Court of Canada to set the record straight on the topic, in principle, for all Canadians.

The court unanimously ruled in Kosoian's favour today, determining that Canadians do not in fact have to obey signs that are only intended to be warnings, and that present "unlawful orders" when authorities try to enforce them.

Justice Suzanne Côté said that the STM was wrong in "teaching officers that the pictogram in question imposed an obligation to hold the handrail," calling the instance an "unjustified state intrusion."

So, in case there was any question, it's official: unlike with personal safety choices regarding things like seatbelts, it is not actually any type of offence in Canada to refuse to hold on to a handrail, regardless of if a sign suggesting you do so is present.

Kosoian will be awarded $20,000 in damages.

Lead photo by

Jefferson Photography

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