Amendments to the city’s vehicle-for-hire bylaw could be coming forward to Whitehorse city council in the coming months.
A media briefing was held on the issue at city hall on March 30 with Krista Mroz, the city’s acting director of community services; Mayor Laura Cabott; and Whitehorse RCMP detachment commander Insp. Lindsay Ellis.
Taxi safety has drawn much public attention lately. On March 22, the city pulled the business licenses of Premier Cabs and Grizzley Taxi over a series of repeated bylaw violations. The two companies have 30 days from when the licenses were revoked to appeal the decision.
On March 8, a rally was held outside city hall calling for safer taxis in the city. The Yukon Women’s Coalition survey found more than half of respondents reported being made uncomfortable or scared by something that was said or asked in a taxi.
Sexual harassment in taxis was found to be significantly more common for Indigenous women.
The Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council launched an education campaign aimed at promoting safety in taxis and prompting changes to the City of Whitehorse’s vehicle-for-hire bylaw.
During the March 30 media briefing, the city and RCMP highlighted the work both parties have underway in an effort to make taxis safer.
Ellis noted since 2017, the RCMP received 17 reports of sexualized assaults related to cabs, three of which resulted in charges. She noted the RCMP regularly work with the city’s bylaw department on taxi safety.
Ellis said while the numbers are concerning, it also shows reports are being made to the RCMP.
She also encouraged those who are feeling uncomfortable when taking a cab to call 911 and police will respond.
“If someone is in a cab, and they are not feeling safe, if they’re able, if they phone us we will attend and we have,” she said, emphasizing its not to say that the onus should be on the passenger for their safety, but rather to give residents options.
She highlighted a number of resources that can be accessed to help those who have experienced sexualized assault or gender-based violence, including the territory’s sexualized assault response team available 24/7 at 1-844-967-7275; the Yukon Women’s Transition Home Society which has a 24-hour crisis line at 867-668-5733; and Whitehorse General Hospital.
The city also highlighted work it is doing while staff continues to review the survey results and recommendations.
“Public safety is very important to the City of Whitehorse,” Cabott said.
She went on to note a social media campaign the city has planned that will highlight an individual’s rights and where they can seek help.
Efforts are also underway to have more regular meetings with other organizations in the community.
“That has happened in the past but we are upping our game in that department,” Cabott said. “As I said earlier, this is a whole community approach in dealing with this.”
She noted it will take some time for administration to analyze the city’s current bylaw and for any policy changes to come forward for council’s consideration.
Mroz also noted efforts that have been underway for some time.
“Over the past two years bylaw has increased its informal enforcement initiatives and implemented a random midnight shift to support vehicle for higher enforcement,” she said. “This resulted in tickets in the thousands of dollars and increase in the number of vehicles that were inspected.”
Contact Stephanie Waddell at email@example.com