'I was scared': Indigenous senior warning others after she jumped from Winnipeg taxi for safety

A Manitoba family is hoping charges are laid after an Indigenous senior fractured her collarbone and dislocated her shoulder jumping from a moving Winnipeg taxi.

77-year-old says driver pulled away from her destination after delay in receiving payment

Illa Garson, 77, said she suffered a fractured collarbone, a dislocated shoulder and bruising after jumping out of a Winnipeg taxi while fearing for her safety, she said. (Jill Coubrough/CBC News)

A Manitoba family is hoping charges are laid after an Indigenous senior fractured her collarbone and dislocated her shoulder jumping from a moving Winnipeg taxi, fearing for her safety.

Illa Garson, 77, had arrived home from Club Regent Casino, where she was playing bingo on Nov. 19, when she says the driver took off with her inside after a discrepancy over payment.

Illa said the driver had stopped near house and she had arranged for her daughter to bring her payment outside. When her daughter didn't come out, she said she told the driver she would go and retrieve the money. 

The senior said she opened the door to step out of the cab and the driver began driving away.

"I was scared," she said. "He didn't stop ... he told me 'where's the money?'"

'I was screaming'

The 77-year-old said she jumped from the vehicle, onto the road, because she didn't know where the driver was taking her. 

"I was screaming and nobody heard me," she said. "I phoned my daughter and told her I was lying on the ground."

Illa said she rolled toward the curb in the snow and the driver took off. Her son Gary Garson called police and an ambulance to take his mother to hospital.

"What went through her mind was the murdered and missing Indigenous women in the city," he said, adding his mother was afraid she may be one of them if she didn't escape.

A spokesperson for the Winnipeg Police Service said their investigation is complete and the matter is now with Crown attorneys. There is no word yet if charges will be laid.

"He didn't even get out of the cab to go help her," Gary said. "She's 77 years old and he should have known better."

It's not the first time Winnipeg taxi drivers have come under scrutiny for their treatment of Indigenous passengers. 

Indigenous passengers concerned

In December 2015, a Winnipeg man launched a ride-sharing service, Neechi Rides, in response to the racism and violence Indigenous people experienced in city cabs.

"Some of them tell how cab drivers try to touch them, feel them up and take them places they don't want to be," Pernell Flett told CBC News in 2015 of the Indigenous people he drives around the city.

In February 2016, IKWE, a safe ride service operated by and for Indigenous women formed, for similar reasons. 

"They're rude to us, they demand payment as soon as we sit in or they yell at us, they think we don't have money. They feel we're all trying to rob them or ditch out on the cabs," founder Jackie Traverse told CBC News at the time.

In December 2016, the Southern Chiefs Organization held a news conference to warn women about taking taxis after a 19-year-old woman was allegedly drugged and sexually assaulted after getting into a cab and another woman claimed she was propositioned for sex by a taxi driver.

The Garson family said they're speaking out to warn others about how Illa was treated. 

"She doesn't want what happened to her to happen to other people," Gary said, translating for his mother from Cree. 

Winnipeg Community Taxi Coalition spokesperson Scott McFadyen called the incident "really upsetting." 

But, he said that the taxi industry takes all allegations of impropriety seriously and their zero-tolerance policy immediately suspends drivers without pay following an incident. All cabs have cameras, the recordings of which are admissible in court, and they are looking at adding audio, which could support alleged victims in cases like this in court, he said. 

"That would kind of cover any concerns that people have over something said untoward a passenger, or a driver for that matter," McFadyen said. "That it [will be] captured on camera and on audio."

He added that drivers have criminal background checks and child abuse registry checks before being allowed to drive. 

CBC News has reached out to Unicity Taxi for comment, but has yet to receive a response. 

Gary said his mother is still traumatized by what happened and said she will no longer take a taxi alone. 


Jill Coubrough

Former CBC reporter

Jill Coubrough was a video journalist with CBC News based in Winnipeg. She previously worked as a reporter for CBC News in Halifax and as an associate producer for the CBC documentary series Land and Sea. She holds a degree in political studies from the University of Manitoba and a degree in journalism from the University of King's College.