The Manitoba Taxicab Board has a new voice: Leah Gazan, a University of Winnipeg instructor and Idle No More activist who is offering suggestions on how to improve relations with the indigenous community.
Gazan attended her first meeting as a board member on Wednesday night as she and the taxicab board try to address allegations of Winnipeg cab drivers harassing and making unwanted sexual advances towards indigenous women.
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"I know that our community wanted a voice and I think it is great that they decided to appoint an indigenous woman to the board," she said Thursday.
"I think I have a unique perspective as an indigenous woman in terms of unique needs of our community, but I think when we are talking about cab safety, safe cabs are not only good for patrons but also [for] an industry that really suffers when it gets these kinds of negative reports."
The taxicab board says only a handful of complaints of a sexual nature are being investigated at this time, despite numerous claims being made on social media in recent weeks.
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"We need people coming forward to make formal complaints so that we have something to go on," Gazan said.
"Right now, if people don't come forward, then it's rumour. We need people to come forward and make those formal complaints."
Taxicab board chairman David Sanders said Gazan's input has already been very helpful.
"We had an initial discussion yesterday with Leah's assistance in which she discussed a number of ways which we might make our procedures more welcoming and more comfortable for people," he said.
"We realized, certainly since I was on the board, that it can be intimidating and people are obviously reluctant to file complaints, and I believe we have to go the extra mile to make it easy and comfortable for people to tell their story and make sure we deal with any real problems that are there."
Gazan said she has proposed a fact sheet that would explain how to make a complaint to the taxicab board. The idea is being discussed and she said she hopes it will be released in the coming weeks.