Sexual assault and harassment allegations by a number of women against Montreal taxi drivers are raising questions about the fact criminal background checks aren’t being conducted on many of the city’s cabbies.

Provincial law states that taxi permits will not be issued to anyone who’s been “convicted, in the last five years, of an indictable or criminal offence connected with the aptitudes and conduct required to carry on the occupation of taxi driver.”

Last fall, Quebec's Ministry of Transport said it was planning to require those applying for a taxi driver's permit to submit a $70 criminal background check by Montreal police. 

At the time, the ministry said it was still in the process of deciding which crimes would warrant a taxi driver's license being rejected. 

Taxi

The only taxi drivers who currently must submit a criminal background check are those working with vulnerable populations including children and the elderly. (CBC)

Montreal police told CBC News Thursday that background checks are only currently conducted on drivers working with vulnerable people, such as those with disabilities, senior citizens and children.

Quebec’s automobile insurance board, the SAAQ, does not include mention of criminal background checks on its “Become a Taxi Driver” webpage.

The only requirements listed under its “Conditions for obtaining a taxi driver’s permit” are:

  • Hold a Class 4C probationary or driver's licence.
  • Understand, speak and read French.
  • Pass the test on the regulations for taxi transport.

In an interview with CBC News, an SAAQ spokesman said the reason why criminal background checks are not carried out on all cab drivers is the fact the law does not define who is responsible for conducting them, nor how they should be carried out.

A provincial working group is currently trying to sort out the confusion, but he couldn’t say when it will have the answers.

City Councillor Alex Norris told CBC News that this “turf war” needs to be resolved immediately.

“Because of the intimate setting in which cab drivers and their passengers are put, on a daily basis, we feel that there should be more complete background checks carried out on all cabbies,” he said.

A CBC News exclusive report on Wednesday heard from a number of women who allege they were sexually assault or harassed by Montreal cab drivers.