Montreal taxis: Incidents raise questions about women's safety

Andrea is one of several young women who told CBC they’ve experienced a similar episode and expressed concern about lax safety in cabs in the city.

CBC News talks to woman passenger who says taxi driver tried to assault her

Women question safety of Montreal taxis

8 years ago
Duration 2:45
A number of incidents in Montreal taxis are raising questions about women's safety. CBC News spoke with one woman who says she experienced a cab driver's unwanted sexual advances.

Andrea was out for a few drinks with friends downtown when she decided to hail a cab to take her home to Verdun.

She was having a friendly chat with the driver from her seat in the back of the taxi when she noticed he was masturbating.

Andrea said he tried to make her touch his genitals, and attempted to kiss and grab her.

“I was just thinking, ‘I have to go. I have to leave,’” she told CBC News in an interview.

She quickly thought to tell the driver they were passing her street and asked him to stop.

She hopped out of the car and went up a flight of stairs to a random house hoping he would leave as she pretended to look for her keys.

“Everything happened so fast,” she said. “I didn’t have time to get the identity of the guy, to get the name of the taxi or anything.”

Andrea spoke to CBC News about an incident in a Montreal cab last summer. The experience left her wary of flagging taxis down in the street. (CBC)

The incident, which happened last summer, left Andrea terrified. She asked that her last name not be used out of fear that she could be identified by the driver.

Cameras in cabs

She’s one of several young women who told CBC they’ve experienced a similar episode and expressed concern about lax safety in cabs in the city.

After a taxi driver was killed on the job last November, the city’s Transportation and Public Works Commission began looking at strategies to make taxis safer for both drivers and passengers.

In April, the commission released 16 recommendations, including the installation of cameras in cabs.

City councillor Alex Norris said the city is moving in the right direction, but there still aren’t enough protections in place for taxis.

“The city could be doing more to protect passengers and taxi drivers alike,” he said.

Norris said the presence of the camera alone can have a dissuasive effect on those looking to harm drivers and data from cities where cameras have been installed show a drop in violent incidents.

More safety measures needed

But more can be done, including adding GPS locators to cabs and requiring taxi drivers to pass a criminal record check before they can take on any passengers.

Norris said the plan to install cameras in cabs is in the works, but there are still details to be worked out.

“There are still questions surrounding the installation of the cameras, namely who will foot the bill,” he said.

Andrea said she’s still wary of getting into a taxi.

She didn’t report the incident because she didn’t have any information to identify the driver. And, because she had flagged the cab from the street, there are no dispatch records to help identify the car number.

“I just told myself that there’s so many of them,” she said. “My mom said I should report it, but I didn’t see the point because there’s so many of them.”

She wholly supports adding cameras to the cabs to protect both the drivers and passengers. She said she’s only taken a handful of taxis since the incident, but she now takes steps to protect herself.

“I think the best way [to stay safe] is to tell girls to call a taxi, not to hail one – especially if you're a girl alone at night,” she said.

Complaints news to taxi company

Dominique Roy, president of Montreal's Diamond Taxi company, said he's never heard of such situations happening in his cabs.

"Sexual harassment is a criminal offence and drivers are very prudent about those issues because the consequences are very important for them," he said.

Roy said reports of such incidents received by his company would be communicated to Montreal's taxi bureau.