A Dartmouth, N.S., woman says she narrowly escaped an attacker in downtown Halifax after being refused a cab ride over the bridge early Friday morning.
Charlene Mills says she spent Thursday night at the Oasis Pub on Spring Garden Road and left around 1:30 a.m. Aug. 8. She walked up Barrington Street and flagged a taxi near Scotia Square.
“I walked over to the passenger side window, which he had down, and asked him if he would take me to Dartmouth. At that point he refused, told me he didn’t want to go across the bridge and he didn’t have time to drive to Dartmouth,” she said.
The 30-year-old woman says there was a man behind her, standing near the Barrington Street bus terminal by Scotia Square.
“When the cab driver refused to give me service and I started walking, he started following me. He started harassing me saying things like,‘Get a taxi with me. Come home to my place if you can’t get a cab.’ That sort of stuff,” she said.
Mills says she pretended to talk on her cellphone as she walked toward Gottingen Street, hoping the man would leave her alone.
“He came up a little quicker behind me, grabbed my shoulder to spin me around and get me to stop ignoring him and engage with him and ripped the strap of my sundress,” she said.
A sense of helplessness
“Sheer panic. I was really scared. My phone was dead so I had no way to call for help.”
Mills says at that point the intoxicated man stumbled back and she bolted towards a nearby friend’s house.
'I should be able to walk a couple of blocks in a heavily-trafficked, well-lit area of downtown Halifax and not have to worry about being refused taxi service or have a man follow me down the street and harass me.' - Charlene Mills
“I was really afraid he was going to keep chasing me. I’m wearing a dress and wedge sandals, so I’m not really capable of maintaining a good speed for very much distance,” she said.
The fear the situation could escalate wasn’t far from her mind.
“I definitely got lucky...I couldn’t even get a taxi. I can’t get anyone to help when a man is chasing me down the street,” she said. “It was pretty terrifying.”
Mills says she called the police the next day, but didn’t get a good look at the perpetrator.
“I just wanted him to realize I wasn’t giving him any attention. I didn’t engage him. I didn’t talk to him, I didn’t interact with him at all until the point where he grabbed me,” she said.
'Unacceptable' says Casino Taxi
After the attack, Mills took to Twitter to complain. Other users shared similar stories about being refused a ride because of where they lived.
“I just wanted to call the cab company out because I felt they should be monitoring their drivers better...basically abandoning a girl on the side of the road in the middle of the night when their job is to drive people wherever. We live in a harbour city. Part of our life is the bridge,” she said. "I wasn't worth his time."
Mills says she’s been refused a ride over the bridge before because drivers say they can’t take a return fare back from Dartmouth.
“I’m really shocked something hasn’t been done about it by now,” she said.
Casino Taxi called the situation "unacceptable" and says it’s not their policy to refuse fare based on location.
“It’s really up to the drivers to have more integrity,” Mills said. "If he had picked me up, everything would have been fine."
Mills says Casino said they’ll try to figure out who the driver is based on GPS and the timeframe she described.
Sarah Reeves, a spokesperson for the city, says there are limited situations in which a cab driver can refuse a fare.
“If the destination violated their zone restriction for instance. If they felt their personal safety was in jeopardy or if the fare was asked to provide a proof of payment or payment in advance and they declined,” she said.
Reeves says if the municipality has information they can try to follow up, backed by the city’s bylaws. A driver could be fined or could lose their licence.
“Unfortunately, the options for the municipality are limited without specific details. We encourage anyone if they're in that situation to get the roof light number, get the make and model of the vehicle and get a driver description,” she said
Mills says from now on she’s going to make a habit of noting the cab number in case there’s another incident.
Even then, she says her relationship with downtown Halifax has changed.
“I was not out this weekend. It makes me uncomfortable now because I don’t want to walk anywhere by myself. I don’t want to have to take a buddy with me everywhere I go," Mills said.
"I’m a grown woman, I should be able to walk a couple of blocks in a heavily-trafficked, well-lit area of downtown Halifax and not have to worry about being refused taxi service or have a man follow me down the street and harass me.”