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Safety still an issue for women in Whitehorse cabs, group says

The City of Whitehorse says it takes women's safety in taxis seriously, and there are measures in place to protect people. But some local advocates say more needs to be done to guarantee passenger safety.

'I'm not sure exactly what is the solution, but I think we need to keep working on this,' says advocate

A video camera mounted in an Ontario taxi. Such cameras are mandatory for Whitehorse cabs, but concerns have been raised in the past about whether they can be disabled. (Amanda Margison/ CBC News)

The City of Whitehorse says it takes women's safety in taxis seriously, and there are measures in place to protect people. But some local advocates say more needs to be done to guarantee passenger safety. 

Several women in the city have recently posted on social media about troubling interactions they've had with taxi drivers. Some have shared stories of being scared of being sexually assaulted during a cab ride home. 

It's not a new issue — several women's groups went before city council in 2017 to argue for tougher rules for cab companies. 

The City of Whitehorse says there are measures in place to ensure the safety of taxi passengers, including criminal record checks for drivers, GPS monitoring, video cameras, and other safety enforcement rules.

"Clearly it's not enough, as things continue to happen" said Ketsia Houde-Mclennan, the acting executive director of the Women's Transition Home in Whitehorse.

"I'm not sure exactly what is the solution, but I think we need to keep working on this, and we are really hoping that [the city] will be open to finding more solutions."

Can cameras be turned off?

Houde-Mclennan says she wants to know if taxi drivers are able to bypass the passenger safety requirements, such as the mandatory security cameras.  

"Is there a way for drivers to turn it off? Those are questions that we have because of the stories that we have heard on social media — there have been incidents. And when we go to the taxi company, they say, 'oh, we don't have any recording of that.'" 

Two years ago, city bylaw officers told city council that they found some cab drivers were driving with cameras that weren't working.

Downtown Whitehorse in 2020. Some local women have spoken out about feeling unsafe in taxis. (Chris Windeyer/CBC)

Brian White, a City of Whitehorse bylaw constable, says cameras in taxis are hard-wired to the vehicle's battery, and a disabled camera can mean a $2,500 fine.

He says time is of the essence for passengers who make a complaint.

"The vehicle-for-hire companies, they are only required to retain video footage for a period of 168 hours [seven days]. So anything past that time frame, the video may or may not be available," said White.

He advises taxi passengers to make sure the camera's red light is on and working when they get into the vehicle.

White says city bylaw takes all complaints seriously and if there are allegations of criminal behaviour, RCMP will get involved.

He also says the city does bi-annual inspections of taxi cabs. It has also reached out to some local women's advocacy groups for more ideas and input.   

White says there is always room for improvement to keep passengers and drivers safe.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story said a disabled camera in a taxi can mean a $25,000 fine. In fact, it is a $2,500 fine.
    Feb 04, 2021 12:05 PM CT

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