Six fines under the City of Whitehorse’s vehicle for hire bylaw could increase to a maximum of $5,000, if city council approves the change.
Kyle Morrison, the city’s acting manager of bylaw services, brought forward the amendments to the bylaw at Whitehorse city council’s Jan. 23 meeting. The amendments include provisions that would raise the maximum fine to $5,000 when there is a second offence under any of the six offences outlined. The fine for the first offence would remain at $2,500, the maximum amount it is at now.
The six offences include taxis having security cameras that don’t record images and audio when there are fares in the cab; security cameras not being hardwired into the vehicle; failure to retain or produce security camera images or audio; failure to capture images or audio with a camera; failure to record an image or audio or removing or deleting images or audio; and providing images or audio from a security camera to anyone other than a designated officer, for insurance purposes or as required by law.
Three other fines under the bylaw would increase from $100 to $500. Those offences would include adding a new vehicle to a taxi fleet without a security camera; adding a security camera not approved by bylaw; or failing to properly mount a security camera on a vehicle.
“The proposed changes will provide better enforcement capabilities and are intended to serve as stronger deterrents,” Morrison told council.
The changes come following a review of the bylaw done in 2022 over concerns around taxi safety in Whitehorse.
In December, a number of proposed amendments were passed including the addition of recording audio in the vehicle, with council directing administration to review the fines as well as how long cabs should be required to keep security camera recordings.
Morrison told council a review of similar fines had looked at eight other municipalities across the country. They included Toronto, Calgary, Regina, Saskatoon, the regional municipality of Wood Buffalo in Alberta, Winnipeg, Yellowknife and Inuvik. The research found fines range anywhere from $200 to $5,000 depending on the offence, municipality, with some fines being for drivers while the largest fines are outlined for taxi companies.
A review of the required retention times for security cameras ranged from three to 14 days depending on the municipality, though information on Toronto wasn’t available and Yellowknife doesn’t require cameras in cabs.
In Whitehorse, taxis are required to retain images for seven days.
Morrison said the city consulted with cab companies about a longer retention period.
“In meeting with the taxi companies, it was noted that increasing the retention will have an impact on the industry as current systems do not possess capabilities for lengthy retention times,” he stated in his report to council. “This change will require companies to purchase a new camera system with an anticipated cost of approximately $600 to $1,000 per camera.”
Coun. Michelle Friesen said that while she is happy with some of the changes such as the addition of audio recordings and increased fines, she would like to see more consideration around video and audio retention.
“We know that there’s an abundance of evidence that points to the fact that victims of sexualized violence do not report within seven days of its occurrence,” she said. “Sometimes it takes years.”
She questioned whether it could be possible for the city’s bylaw department or RCMP to store the audio and video files beyond the seven day period.
“There’s still more we could do,” she said.
Morrison said work is underway to look at solutions. That has included reaching out to the camera manufacturer of the type of cameras many cabs have in their vehicle. It was learned that type of camera has been discontinued and, therefore, software updates are no longer available.
“So we are working with the industry to see how we can move forward to increase safety,” Morrison said, after noting those in the industry that bylaw spoke with are not against camera footage being kept longer given the potential to increase safety for both the public and drivers.
Mayor Laura Cabott also raised questions about the industry’s reaction to increased fines.
“They were supportive when it came down to if they were to have a driver that was deliberately tampering with the camera or deleting it, that the higher fine should be imposed because that has a negative impact on the owner and on the industry itself,” Morrison said, clarifying that the Whitehorse bylaw allows for the fine to be levied against the owner or operator.
He also confirmed bylaw officers can exercise discretion so if there is an issue where the camera and audio aren’t working, but haven’t been tampered with. For example, if there’s a technology glitch, officers can work with the taxi company on how to best address the problem.
Council will vote Jan. 31 whether to move forward with the updated fines for the bylaw.
Contact Stephanie Waddell at firstname.lastname@example.org