A report from the Yukon Women’s Coalition on safety in taxis says they are not a reliably safe form of transportation for women in the Yukon. The report draws its findings from a survey launched in response to a public outcry about sexualized violence that occurred in a Whitehorse taxi in early 2021.
Sixty-eight per cent of survey respondents, 118 in total, reported being made uncomfortable or scared by something that was said or asked in a taxi in the Yukon.
Twenty per cent said they had been harassed, and 18 per cent said the harassment was sexual in nature. Fifteen per cent of respondents said they experienced offers, threats or demands to exchange fares for sex. Eight per cent, 14 respondents, reported being touched or assaulted in a sexualized way.
The survey, which was delivered online for nine days in early 2021, was responded to by 174 people, 160 of whom identified themselves as women. It did not ask respondents to differentiate between recent experiences and those that might have happened some time ago.
Indigenous respondents reported proportionally higher rates of violence, harassment or other encounters which made them feel unsafe. Adults aged 25 to 39 made up the majority of respondents who said they had experienced sexualized violence or harassment.
“Taxi safety will not be realized until we listen and appropriately respond to people with lived experiences of violence, harassment, and discrimination in Whitehorse taxis,” the executive summary of the report from the coalition reads.
Along with recounting incidents that made taxi passengers feel unsafe, the report raises concerns about taxi passengers’ knowledge of where to report safety concerns.
Taxi drivers and companies in Whitehorse are regulated by the city’s Vehicle for Hire Bylaw. Enforcement of compliance with the VFH Bylaw is the responsibility of Whitehorse Bylaw Services
Respondents to the survey indicated they didn’t know where or how to report incidents of gender-based violence. Those who were aware of reporting options often did not think what they experienced was severe enough to necessitate a report, or that enforcement responses would be effective.
The report recommends increasing spot checks of taxi drivers for compliance with the bylaw. It specifically mentions driver IDs not being visible or correct and cameras in taxis not being used.
It suggests a public awareness campaign by both bylaw services and the RCMP about the bylaw and how to formally report gender-based violence or other incidents in a taxi.
The report also suggests that taxi companies sign a service standards agreement outlining how they will hold drivers accountable for reports of sexual violence and harassment. Paid training for drivers including a violence against women module is also recommended.
Suggestions on the use of cameras in taxis including that they function the same as those on city buses and that recordings be submitted to the city at the end of the driver’s shift are also included. The report notes that the cameras in taxis are not audio-enabled and don’t capture verbal exchanges.
The Yukon Status of Women Council had planned to appear as a delegation to discuss the report at Whitehorse’s Jan. 10 council meeting. The delegation was postponed to Jan. 24.
“Coming off the heels of a national day of awareness for the elimination of violence against women and girls it’s clear that there’s still a lot of work to do here and I know the safety of all Whitehorse residents is a priority to myself and this council,” said city councilor Michelle Friesen
Friesen said she looked forward to the coming delegation and the possibility of making some amendments to the vehicle for hire bylaw. A city representative said the bylaw services department also looks forward to working with the women’s coalition on taxi safety.
Contact Jim Elliot at email@example.com