Saskatoon

Veteran driving instructor says difficult for northern Indigenous people to get licences

Alfred Crain says Indigenous people in Saskatchewan's north need more supports when it comes to driving instruction.

Remote locations, lack of identification major hurdle

Driving instructor Alfred Crain says it's difficult for people living in northern Saskatchewan to get driver's licences. (A.C. First Nations Driving Academy/Facebook)

Alfred Crain says Indigenous people in Saskatchewan's north need more supports when it comes to driving instruction.

Owner of A.C. First Nations Driving Academy, Crain regularly crosses the province's north to teach people the rules of the road. Speaking to CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning, he said getting a driver's licence is a big deal. 

"There's that barrier of no licence, no job," he said. "Usually, that application goes to the bottom of the pile if they don't have a licence."

However, people living in remote northern communities can have a hard time getting those licences. For example, before Crain started working in Sandy Bay, Sask., the community hadn't had an instructor for four years, leading to a massive backlog of students.

Lack of identification, like a birth certificate and health card, can also lead to problems. To begin the process of taking the initial online driving test, SGI requires drivers to have proper identification before taking the test.

"Looking at the drawbacks or delays in some of the communities I work with, doing an inventory of some of their identification, those are required to get a customer number with SGI," he said.

Lack of a licence can cause serious problems in northern communities, as some people choose to drive without one.

 "RCMP really welcome First Nations or any driver driver training school coming into the community to assist those individuals that want that licence," he said. "That makes their job a lot easier."

Crain said the situation is improving. SGI recently committed $2.7 toward driver education while the Saskatoon Tribal Council sponsors about 60 seats a year for First Nations people moving to larger centres.

However, he says not enough people are familiar with the programs.

"There's people that still aren't aware that these programs are available and there are sponsored programs that will allow it," he said. "I think there should be more more funds available for people that are trying to get their licence."