Edmonton

Taxi drivers with violent convictions ineligible for licence, committee says

Edmonton taxi drivers will soon have to prove they are free of serious criminal offences for the past 10 years if they want a licence.

Councillors approve amending city's vehicle for hire bylaw

Taxi and other vehicle for hire drivers with serious criminal convictions will no longer be able to appeal if the city rejects their licence application. (CBC )

Edmonton taxi drivers will soon have to prove they have been free of serious criminal offences for the past 10 years if they want a licence.

City council's community and public services committee agreed Wednesday to amend the vehicle for hire bylaw, which governs requirements for taxi and other vehicle-for-hire drivers.

The serious crimes that could disqualify a driver include assault, sexual assault, fraud, trafficking, and driving while intoxicated.

Coun. Bev Esslinger said she hears from women and seniors who sometimes don't feel safe.

"To me, public safety is paramount," she said. "Ten years gives me confidence and aligns with the provincial regulations."

Drivers must provide a police check before the city grants them a licence, which would be valid for one or two years.

Under the original vehicle for hire bylaw, drivers rejected by the city could appeal to the Community Standards and Licence Appeal Committee.

In 2018, the committee sided with five drivers, three with assault convictions and two with impaired driving convictions.

The amended vehicle for hire bylaw closes that loophole. 

'10 years is too long'

Not everyone on the committee agreed with the 10-year term.

Coun. Moe Banga, who used to work in policing, said he's a proponent of public safety and agreed that sexual assault and drug trafficking convictions are serious enough to justify the decade-long requirement for a clean record. 

However, he said, assault can be broadly defined and could limit some people from being able to make a living.

"I know from my experience, you threw a pencil at somebody, that is assault with a weapon. And does that warrant losing your job?" he said.

"I feel 10 years is too long," he said. "We should compromise it, I would say probably six years would be a good thing."

Banga, a member of the committee that approved the five driver appeals, tried to suggest an amendment that would have a six-year licence ban for minor offences. However, because it didn't fit into the wording of the vehicle for hire bylaw, he withdrew the proposal.

Municipalities like Medicine Hat, Lethbridge and Grande Prairie require their taxi drivers to have clean criminal records for five years.

The amended bylaw is contingent on council's final approval at a later meeting. 
Coun. Bev Esslinger asked the city to review its policies to determine whether Edmonton transit drivers should receive the same scrutiny as vehicle for hire drivers. (Sam Martin/CBC)

During Wednesday's meeting, three women spoke to the committee to share their concerns about safety in taxis. 

They asked the city to consider requiring companies to install cameras in vehicles and to create a method of rating drivers, similar to what is offered by ride-sharing companies like Uber.  

The committee also passed a motion asking city administration to consult the Women's Advocacy Voice of Edmonton committee, or WAVE, as well as with accessibility groups to see how the city can improve safety issues in general.

That includes asking the city to look at its current policies about their eligibility for ETS and DATS drivers.

"I wanted to make sure that whatever standard we're holding taxis and transportation network companies, we're also holding our own drivers to," Esslinger said.

The safety recommendations are due back in a report in early 2020.

@natashariebe

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