A bylaw officer stands in the background as Daniel MacKenzie speaks to city councillors during a regular committee meeting in Whitehorse on Dec. 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

The beat goes on, just under a different name

Safe ride home program to continue, says operator

A free safe ride home program being administered by the Yukon’s Free the Beat Foundation is becoming a paid service offered by a private company, according to Free the Beat founder, Daniel MacKenzie.

“It’s called We’re Here to Help and it’s a shuttling community outreach and entertainment company,” Mackenzie told the News on Dec. 5.

MacKenzie first approached Whitehorse City Council at the Nov. 5 standing committees meeting, asking for the city’s help in planning routes for the service. He has since been operating the free or by-donation service via a school bus he purchased and named “The Magic Cool Bus.”

He said he decided to register the company because it’s the only way to comply with the city’s regulations.

On Nov. 29, the city issued a statement saying MacKenzie hadn’t met any of the regulatory requirements necessary to provide his service. City spokesperson Myles Dolphin said those requirements include obtaining a vehicle for hire permit and a business license.

“I don’t need (the city’s) consent to do good in this place that I grew up in,” MacKenzie told the News. “As a human being, I don’t recognize their jurisdiction over my life.”

He does, however, appear to recognize the city’s jurisdiction over his business.

He told the News that rides with We’re Here to Help, will cost $10. He said he intends to comply with vehicle-for-hire bylaws as soon as the business is fully established.

“How can they stop me if I’m complying with their legal crap?” he said.

He also posted a video on his facebook page, saying he has a class one license. In the Yukon, this allows a license holder to drive any vehicle with the exception of a motorcycle.

MacKenzie recently appeared at the Dec. 3 standing committees meeting. He wore a black-feathered headdress decorated with googly eyes, and played music as he spoke to Whitehorse’s council.

“I would like to say, I feel like my human rights have been violated by the City of Whitehorse,” he said as he opened his delegation.

MacKenzie was cut off around 30 seconds later, when Mayor Dan Curtis told him he was out of order.

“Members of the public do have the right to come and address city council, but your comments this evening are in breach of harassment and respect for workplaces policy,” said Curtis. “That being said, if you feel you have grounds, there’s nothing preventing you from pursuing a complaint with the human rights commission, but as I mentioned, this is out of order.”

“Thank you very much,” said Curtis.

“Well, I don’t thank you very much,” said MacKenzie, who left chambers after telling council he would continue to “transport guests” on his bus.

Right now, MacKenzie said he’s working on an app for his service, which he said will be a hybrid non-profit working together with a for-profit company.

He said he has currently invested more than $15,000 of his own money into the initiative, including paying for $2-million worth of liability insurance with Aon Reed Stonehouse Inc.

Aon would not confirm this, citing client privacy.

Dan Shier, a Whitehorse personal injury lawyer, didn’t speak specifically to MacKenzie’s situation, but said that, in general, driving strangers can open a driver up to huge liability. In a case where passengers are drunk, he said, that risk is heightened. Not only is a driver liable for passengers in the case of an automobile accident, but also in the event that a passenger falls and injures themselves in the vehicle.

MacKenzie said he is tired of the red tape around a service he thinks is past due. He said he’s sick of waiting for NGOs and levels of government to do something about an issue that needs addressing.

“My heart is set on this,” said MacKenzie. “I’m going to do everything in my power.”

Contact Amy Kenny at amy.kenny@yukon-news.com

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