'We are a community': 80 Yellowknife cabbies honour slain driver

Close to 80 cabs in Yellowknife drove down Franklin Avenue at noon on Monday in memory of slain taxi driver Ahmed Mahamud Ali.

Taxi driver Ahmed Mahamud Ali was killed in November

Close to 80 cabs joined in Monday's procession in memory of slain driver Ahmed Mahamud Ali. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio Canada)

Close to 80 cabs in Yellowknife drove down Franklin Avenue Monday afternoon in memory of slain taxi driver Ahmed Mahamud Ali.

Ali was found unconscious in the back seat of the City Cab vehicle he was driving outside Stanton Territorial Hospital on Nov. 19. He was pronounced dead shortly after.

"Thirty two years driving and I've never experienced this," said City Cab driver Phil Bailey. "Sure there's been times when you're threatened and stuff, but to get to the point where a cab driver was actually killed is pretty sad."

Phil Bailey has worked as a cab driver in Yellowknife for 32 years. He says driving a cab in Yellowknife can be dangerous, and it's important to talk about it. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio Canada)

Bailey said it was important for cabs across the city to come together and advocate for safer working conditions. Drivers from both City Cab and Aurora Taxi took part in the procession. 

"We're all trying to make a living," he said.

"[Passengers] could easily hit you in the back of the head, they could take your seatbelt, they could start strangling you."

Ali, known as "Uncle Ali" to his co-workers, was beloved and respected among Yellowknife's cab drivers, according to Shirley McGrath, general manager of City Cab.

"It's so important for them to show that we are a community," she said of the procession.

"We're not just individual cab drivers, we're a large group of people and we feel protective toward our own."

Cabs from both City Cab and Aurora Taxi joined in the procession. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio Canada)

McGrath says the group hoped to send a message about the need for greater protection for cab drivers.

Hashem Gassim-Elsead drives for City Cab. He says most of the time passengers are friendly, but since Ali's death he doesn't feel comfortable "like before." 

"We want to work in a safe environment," he said. "Yellowknife, it is safe place, but after this crime ... we need more protection for [our] business."

Hashem Gassim-Elsead is one of the cab drivers who joined the procession. He says that since Ali's death, he hasn't felt comfortable at work. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio Canada)

City Cab says, with the support of Aurora Taxi, it is advocating for changes in legislation to allow drivers to be able to remove their seatbelts when they have a fare within city limits.

Two suspects, 49-year-old James Schiller and 18-year-old Elias Schiller, have been charged with murder in connection with Ali's death.

With files from Joanne Stassen and Mario De Ciccio