Masked protesters confront Unicity Taxi over complaints about drivers

Indigenous activists show up in camouflaged pants, jackets, bandanas and masks to confront Unicity Taxi supervisors. Members of Urban Warrior Alliance say they are acting on behalf of complainants in the indigenous community who have been assaulted and harassed by cab drivers in Winnipeg.

Cab companies taking complaints from indigenous community seriously, said Unicity Taxi's general manager

Urban Warrior Alliance members enter the Unicity Taxi offices on Hargrave Street. Calvin Clarke (right) says supervisors addressed their concerns, but workers in the office were yelling racist comments at them. (Courtesy Red Power Media)

Some indigenous activists in Winnipeg say the time for peaceful protest is over when it comes to standing up to the city's taxicab companies.

On Friday, four members of the Urban Warrior Alliance entered the Unicity Taxi office on Hargrave Street in camouflage pants, jackets, bandanas and masks.

"When we showed up that way, I think we threw a scare into them, which is why we wear our masks and our camo sometimes," said Calvin Clarke, a member of Urban Warrior Alliance. The small community activist group participates in blockades, vigils and marches for missing and murdered indigenous women.

"We need to do that to shake everything up, let people know, you know, 'wow, these people don't mess around,'" said Clarke.

Police were called to the scene but no arrests were made.

Urban Warrior Alliance members speak to Winnipeg Police Service officers after entering Unicity Taxi offices in protest. (Courtesy Red Power Media)

"To be honest, they did nothing violent," said Unicity's general manager, Sunny Dhir. "They just came here to talk, but I explained to them, there's a proper way we can talk because there is a girl working here, too, maybe they're scared."

Clarke said his group was acting on behalf of the family of a recent complainant who said she was solicited for sex by a Unicity Taxi driver. Dhir told them that complaints involving criminal offences should be taken up with the Taxicab Board and the Winnipeg Police Service.

In the meantime, the driver in question is still working. Dhir said he would only be suspended if warranted by the police investigation.

Company says complaints against drivers are few

Despite mounting concerns from the indigenous community, including a call to action from the Southern Chiefs' Organization, Dhir said complaints against drivers are few.

They were getting very upset and swearing at us — some of the workers in there were really belligerent.- Calvin Clarke

"Maybe there are a few girls that are not complaining yet, but on the other hand...there's a complaint [from] the drivers, too — drivers getting robbed, not getting paid — we have to consider both the things equally."

Clarke said the treatment of indigenous people by cab drivers goes far beyond a few complaints, and was evident by the response from some Unicity Taxi workers on Friday night.

"They were getting very upset and swearing at us — some of the workers in there were really belligerent," said Clarke.

Clarke and other members of Urban Warrior Alliance are planning another protest at the next meeting of the Manitoba Taxicab Board.

CBC News