Whitehorse’s city staff and council have responded to concerns regarding taxi safety circulating social media and reported by the News last week.
Several accounts described drivers offering free or discounted rides to women in return for “favours”, or suggesting remote roads or the drivers’ homes as alternative destinations.
The issue was brought up by city council on Feb. 1.
Coun. Laura Cabott said she found the recounts “quite disturbing,” expressing concern that a high number of women deem local taxis unsafe. She and fellow councillors posed several questions regarding the city’s taxi bylaws.
Myles Dolphin, city communications manager, issued a press release earlier that day highlighting the city’s extensive vehicle-for-hire rules.
According to the release, all taxi drivers are required to obtain a permit; undergo a criminal record and vulnerable sector check; and take an exam on the bylaw.
Taxis are also subject to inspections twice per year for meter accuracy, video compliance, GPS compliance, mechanical compliance, cleanliness and driver’s permit display.
Twenty-six tickets were issued for taxi bylaw infractions in 2020, according to Jeff O’Farrell, city director of community and recreation services which oversee bylaw services.
O’Farrell told councillors at the Feb. 1 meeting that ticketable offences “vary considerably” between $50 and $2,500.
The highest fines of $2,500 are served for a third offence of driving without a security camera (the first two offences result in $100 and $250 fines, respectively); security cameras not recording while passengers in the vehicle; security cameras not hardwired into a vehicle; and failing to equip cars with a GPS.
Ketsia Houde-Mclennan, acting executive director of the Yukon Women’s Transition Home, told the News last week she was concerned that security cameras only begin recording once a taxi’s fare metre is switched on.
The city’s bylaw mandates that security cameras must record “at all times there is a fare in the vehicle; hardwired into the vehicle as to ensure the camera continues to capture images for 30 minutes after the motor has been shut off.”
O’Farrell clarified on Feb. 1 that security cameras should be hardwired to vehicles’ batteries.
He explained to council that the city implemented a more intensive taxi bylaw following a petition brought from women’s advocacy groups in 2017.
Sexualized assault awareness training was also provided to some taxi drivers, in partnership with those advocacy groups, with a small stipend of city funding to encourage participation.
He said the city endeavours to maintain a relationship with advocacy groups, and his department had reached out to Houde-Mclennan to address her concerns.
The city also partners with local RCMP to perform “periodic check stops” for bylaw infractions, he said.
The city’s Feb. 1 press release encouraged Yukoners to submit complaints to bylaw services or more serious infractions to the RCMP.
“I would take this opportunity to recognize how difficult it is for victims to make complaints, but to say that if any citizen of Whitehorse feels like they’ve seen or had a crime committed against them, we strongly encourage them to contact the RCMP,” O’Farrell said.
A bylaw services representative was not available for comment by publication deadline.
Contact Gabrielle Plonka at firstname.lastname@example.org