Women's groups say Whitehorse taxis unsafe, need tougher rules

'We're calling on you to address taxi safety for women in Whitehorse now — before another sexualized assault takes place. Our community deserves access to safe taxis,' city council was told.

City council given a list of recommendations to prevent sexual assault in cabs

Collyn Lovelace of the Yukon Women's Coalition, Sarah Murphy of the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre and Elaine Michaud from Les EssentiElles presented a list of recommendations to city council on Monday, along with a stack of letters from concerned citizens. (Mike Rudyk/CBC)

Whitehorse needs to toughen its taxi bylaws to protect passengers from assault, city council was told on Monday.

Representatives of several local women's organizations appeared before council to make some recommendations. They said sexual assaults have happened too often.

"The Yukon News reported on cab drivers assaulting women in 2006, 2009, 2011, 2014 and again in 2017," said Collyn Lovelace of the Yukon Women's Coalition.

"We know that one in every three women in Canada have been sexually assaulted, and we know that less than 10 per cent of victims report the crime. So we feel the magnitude of this problem in our community is likely much larger than we're aware."

The most recent allegations involving a cab driver came to light in October, when police charged a man after two women separately accused him of assaulting them in his taxi.

List of recommendations

Lovelace, along with Sarah Murphy of the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre and Elaine Michaud from Les EssentiElles, presented council with a list of recommendations to improve taxi safety. They said the ideas came from talking to local cab companies, and researching what's done elsewhere.

The recommendations include:

  • a training and accreditation program for taxi drivers;
  • requirement for cabs to display information inside the taxi, about the driver, cab company, taxi number, and phone numbers to call with complaints;
  • a public information campaign to ensure citizens know about the requirement for cabs to have cameras installed, and the penalties for tampering with those cameras;
  • a by-law requiring taxis to use similar camera equipment as city buses,which cannot be disabled or turned off;
  • a requirement that video be sent immediately and directly to the city after each cab driver's shift.

In May, Whitehorse's Vehicle For Hire bylaw was amended to require security cameras installed in all city cabs. It stipulates that all images and footage must be kept for at least 72 hours.

Michaud said that's not good enough.

Mounted security cameras are a common requirement for taxis in many Canadian jurisdictions. Whitehorse's taxi bylaw was amended in May to include such a requirement. (Amanda Margison/ CBC News)

"We never know when someone will come forward with a complaint or anything like that. So, if the recordings are only kept for 72 hours, not really checked, or checked randomly, not very often, then a lot of the evidence that could be needed if someone wanted to go forward and press charges — that evidence would be gone," she said.

The three women also presented council with 41 letters from citizens who want to see "concrete measures put in place to increase taxi safety in Whitehorse," according to Michaud.

"We're calling on you to address taxi safety for women in Whitehorse now — before another sexualized assault takes place. Our community deserves access to safe taxis," she said.

Mayor Dan Curtis thanked the women for their recommendations, and said the city "takes this very seriously, and is working on solutions."

"It's not acceptable what's happening right now, we all understand that and get that," he said.

With files from Mike Rudyk


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