Some women’s safety advocates are questioning a list of tips for taxi passengers located on the City of Whitehorse’s website. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)

City of Whitehorse tells taxi passengers who feel unsafe to not travel alone

Suggestion criticized by advocates for placing burden of safety on passengers, not taxi companies

While a list of safety facts for taxi passengers on the City of Whitehorse’s website contains important information about passenger rights, women’s safety advocates say one tip unfairly places the burden of safety on to passengers instead of taxi companies.

The list, published on the city’s website under the title, “TAXIS: Your Safety Matters,” outlines requirements that taxi drivers and their vehicles must adhere to as well as how to report an offence via the “Trouble Line.”

It also contains the suggestion, “If you feel vulnerable and unsafe, please do not travel alone.”

That phrase appears to puts the “responsibility on the passenger to ensure their safety when really, it should be the taxi service that’s making sure everyone’s safe using their services,” Les EssentiElles executive director Élaine Michaud said.

“There’s been a lot of instances, reported to the RCMP and not, where passengers were travelling in a group and still, were assaulted, were still victims of harassment, so travelling in groups does not ensure someone’s safety,” Michaud said.

Reem Girgrah, who works with the Yukon Status of Women Council and is also a board member of the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre, agreed.

“It’s not about a person ensuring their own safety. People are choosing to take a cab … (and) wanting to get home safe, they’re choosing what they believe is a safe way to get home,” Girgrah said. “That person is already vulnerable … and they’re trying to ensure their safety already, and this kind of expectation that the cab is going to be safe for them to get home. For me, it’s really concerning that they would push that.”

The city’s list comes in the wake of Les EssentiElles, the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre and the Yukon Women’s Coalition presenting Whitehorse city council with 10 recommendations on how to improve taxi safety. Those recommendations included creating a training and accreditation program for taxi drivers, changing an existing bylaw so that all security videos recorded in cabs are sent to the city following the end of each driver’s shift and having cabs display an information sheet that includes the cab driver’s name and the company they drive for.

Bylaw Services manager Dave Pruden said the city’s list was meant to address some of those recommendations by raising awareness about rules taxis must adhere to, including that taxi companies must keep security camera footage on file for 72 hours.

“The laws are in place in the bylaw and in the Criminal Code for people to be treated respectfully, but if someone feels unsafe, they shouldn’t travel alone. I think that’s what we’re trying to say,” Pruden said.

In an email following the News’ interview with Pruden, city spokesperson Myles Dolphin said that “the City will look at whether we can re-word that sentence or whether we have to remove it entirely” and “thanks local advocacy groups for helping us improve our website to have the best information possible.”

Besides the suggestion to not travel alone, Michaud and Girgrah both said the list otherwise contained useful information that passengers may otherwise not be aware of.

“I am quite encouraged to see that there (are) some efforts to raise public awareness around safety in cabs, so that’s definitely a first good step,” she said.

“What I’m really hoping for is to be able to work closely with Bylaw Services to implement as many recommendations that we put forward as possible to ensure that everyone is safe taking taxis in Whitehorse and across the territory.”

With files from Lori Fox

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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