Taxi driver who clung to UberX says he once drove for Uber

The Toronto taxi driver who confronted an UberX driver on Wednesday by clinging to the moving car’s mirror says he drove for UberBlack, the luxury version of the ride-hailing service, as recently as last week.

Driver Suntharesan Kanagasabai dismisses claims his protest tactic was dangerous

Angry taxi driver confronts Uber driver

6 years ago
Duration 1:13
Emotions erupt on busy downtown Toronto street during anti-Uber demonstration by taxi drivers 1:13

The Toronto taxi driver who confronted an UberX driver on Wednesday by clinging to the moving car's mirror says he drove for UberBlack, the luxury version of the ride-hailing service, as recently as last week.

Suntharesan Kanagasabai was among the hundreds of cabbies demonstrating against Uber near city hall when he was captured on camera pounding on the windows of a white Honda Civic that was being driven for Uber, then clinging to the car as its driver tried to flee.

Suntharesan Kanagasabai was captured on video clinging to an UberX car amid a citywide anti-Uber protest launched by cab drivers on Wednesday. (CBC)
Kanagasabai told CBC News he was just trying to make a point to the reporters who were gathered around him. He said he wanted the Uber driver to roll down the window and talk, but that the driver didn't want to "face the music."

"For the last two years we are watching," Kanagasabai said of the rise of Uber in Toronto. "We can't take it anymore." "We're on the job trying to make a living."

However, Kanagasabai, who works independently running a car service, said when Uber arrived in Canada he was one of the first people to sign up to work for the company. Up until last week, he sometimes picked up fares using UberBlack.

Now, he's vowed to stop working for Uber altogether.

Uber Canada spokesperson Susie Heath told CBC News in an email that she couldn't confirm Kanagasabai drove for Uber without getting his consent.

As for whether he would be welcome to drive for the company in the future, Heath said: "In instances where there is evidence that someone has posed a threat to public safety, they are immediately removed from the platform."

Kanagasabai said he initially believed Uber would play by the city's rules but now, he says, the company is flouting them.

When asked whether he regretted signing up with Uber, he replied: "Oh my God, yes."

Kanagasabai said Uber takes too much commission from drivers, and he decried Uber's new option, UberSelect, which links passengers with high-end cars (think BMW and Mercedes sedans with leather seats) that aren't necessarily black. That service, which is cheaper than UberBlack, is just the latest way the company is cutting into his earnings, he said.

The other problem, Kanagasabai said, is the glut of Uber drivers on Toronto's roads, The driver, who said he's been working in the business for 22 years, said every day he spots about 100 vehicles working for Uber — which are often easy to spot by a glowing smartphone mounted to the dash and a passenger riding in the back seat.

Mayor, taxi union condemn actions

A taxi driver shouts 'John Tory! Shame!' amid a demonstration that shut down the intersection of Queen and Bay on Wednesday evening. (John Rieti/CBC)
Kanagasabai called on Mayor John Tory and police Chief Mark Saunders to do more to crack down on Uber, pointing out the city's enforcement blitz seems to have eased up since last summer's Pan Am Games.

As for the incident itself, Kanagasabai dismissed the idea that what he did was dangerous, adding he might be the one to press charges.

"I might talk to my lawyer, I don't know," he said. "I thought the gentleman was going to stop. I tried to talk to him politely."

CBC Toronto is attempting to contact police to see whether charges will be laid in connection with the incident.

Const. Clint Stibbe, with the Toronto police traffic services division, said initially someone filed a complaint about the incident but now no longer wants to speak with police.

Without a complainant, Stibbe said, police won't investigate further. 

Everyone from the iTaxi Workers Association to the mayor condemned Kanagasabai's actions on Wednesday.

With files from Michelle Cheung


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