Whitehorse Daily Star

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KDFN chief Doris Bill

KDFN citizen with voucher turned away from cabs

Being denied multiple rides from taxis from the city’s airport to the hospital has left the Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) frustrated – and calling for more sensitivity from cab drivers.

By Palak Mangat on May 10, 2019

Being denied multiple rides from taxis from the city’s airport to the hospital has left the Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) frustrated – and calling for more sensitivity from cab drivers.

Last month, a KDFN citizen landed in Whitehorse around 10:30 pm. on April 23 via an Air North flight at Erik Nielsen Whitehorse International Airport.

The individual’s brother was being medevacked to Whitehorse from Vancouver around the same time, and he had a Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB) voucher to help with his transportation to the hospital.

“He was told there was a high probability his brother would not survive the return flight home,” wrote KDFN chief Doris Bill in an open letter dated May 9.

After trying to hail what Bill was told were three Yellow Cabs, all three drivers refused him service.

KDFN is not releasing the names of the individuals involved at this time, but Bill did speak to the Star Thursday afternoon about the incident. The individual’s brother survived that night, but has since passed away.

“He just said they waved him off; ‘next cab, next cab,’” Bill told the Star. “Had I not been there, he would have been stranded at the airport.”

The chief just happened to be at the site at that time, and personally drove the citizen to the hospital.

“I want to ask cab companies to be more accommodating and sensitive to people in these situations – the vouchers are equivalent to money,” Bill said.

“And some people who have these vouchers don’t have a lot of money.”

NIHB vouchers are part of a program that provide eligible First Nation and Inuit with coverage for some “medically necessary health-related goods and services,” which are not covered under provincial/territorial health and social programs or other private insurance plans.

A federal program, it can include things like over-the-counter medication, medical supplies and equipment, medical transportation and prescription drugs.

Medical transportation benefits can be provided to help people access services like doctor’s appointments, hospital care, alcohol, drug abuse and detox treatments that are pre-approved.

According to a Government of Canada webpage though, medical transportation for “compassionate travel” is not a benefit under the program – so it is excluded.

To Bill’s knowledge, the drivers knew that the citizen would be paying via voucher but were unaware of his circumstances involving his brother – but that shouldn’t matter, she said.

“People never – you don’t get into a taxi or whatever and share that information.

“I’m just asking them to be more sensitive because people that are using these vouchers could be facing some serious situations – you need to get from point A to point B,” she added.

“It’s a very difficult situation for this man and to have his situation compounded like that was just - it was really hard to understand,” she said.

“Honour the vouchers, it’s equivalent to money, I don’t know what the issue is.”

Meanwhile, a co-owner of Yellow Cabs told the Star today the incident should not have happened, and vowed to take disciplinary action.

“Our company’s policy is we take everything – as an individual effort, drivers might make a mistake about our policy,” said Abdul Sayid.

Sayid was unable to confirm in time for this afternoon’s publication whether it was in fact three Yellow Cab drivers involved.

He explained a denial of service would not serve the driver well ­­– nor the client.

“Refusing paperwork is not going to help them because they’re not going to get a trip and at the same time they’ll be in trouble.”

He continued that it simply should not have happened as the company briefs drivers on what it accepts as payment when they are hired.

“I already told everybody not to do that, if I find anybody doing it, I’m going to fire them,” Sayid said, adding this is the first time in three years he’s heard of such an instance.

Getting such vouchers are common, he added; within the last three weeks or so, Sayid predicted he had $400 worth of them.

They can include those travelling from areas like Old Crow into Whitehorse for hospital visits and the like.

Sayid said he had not seen KDFN’s open letter, despite it being addressed to Yellow Cabs on Thursday.

The Star then shared Bill’s letter with Sayid, and he reiterated after seeing it that it should not have happened.

“We cannot refuse, any driver that refuses is no longer going to work for us,” he said.

“It could be one of the guys was hurting for money and he didn’t want that paperwork and he was aiming for cash – some stuff like that happens,” but it didn’t make it appropriate.

Sayid encouraged that for future reference, complaints can be called in and shared with dispatchers, who will pass them on to the appropriate person.

“Maybe one of them was there (at the airport), I’m not sure – I gave the list to Bylaw to find out who was there so we can call them in,” Sayid said earlier.

Meanwhile, the city, which regulates the taxi industry via its Vehicle for Hire bylaw, said it’s aware of the concern and looking into the matter.

“Our investigation will involve obtaining information and circumstances regarding the interaction that took place between the KDFN citizen and the vehicle for hire drivers in effort to determine if any contravention of the Vehicle for Hire Bylaw occurred,” wrote Doug Spencer this morning.

Spencer is the manager of bylaw services with the city.

He pointed out that NIHB transportation vouchers are forms of payment that have been accepted in the past.

“Inquiries are being made as to why this payment method was not accepted,” he added.

The city was unable to confirm in time for this afternoon’s publication if there was a timeline on when that investigation could wrap up.

“(The) investigation is in progress and whatever the investigation reveals will be compared against driver requirements of the Vehicle for Hire Bylaw,” Spencer added.

All taxi companies may not legally obligated to accept such vouchers, Bill said, but this shows a need for sensitivity from drivers.

Whether that translates into things like a change in rules, more training for staff or even legal actions, is too early to tell.

“I suspect it may be part of a much wider problem – I don’t know, but I guess we’ll find out once the story is out there,” Bill said.

Comments (15)

Up 16 Down 4

I'm confused on May 16, 2019 at 11:12 am

The problem here isn't that a person can't afford a cab ride?
That the person can't simply turn in their receipt to Kawnlin Dunn for reimbursement?

The problem is that a cab driver won't give up a good fare (airport) with an almost guaranteed tip... for a piece of paper with a fixed amount.
Got it.
Why not include a guaranteed 10% gratuity?

Up 24 Down 16

North_of_60 on May 14, 2019 at 10:23 pm

A cab company is private enterprise and they have the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason. If KDFN doesn't like this, then they can start their own cab company just for their members.

Up 12 Down 19

Interesting event on May 13, 2019 at 3:41 pm

Why not give them cash instead of paper?

Up 34 Down 25

Dorn Smearl on May 13, 2019 at 11:05 am

Well I can elucidate exactly why the drivers do not want to accept the vouchers, and it is for the same reason people working in restaurants don't want to serve people using these vouchers - no tip. It's the ugly truth, but these people are working for tips. The only way to deal with it IMO is for these vouchers to have built in gratuity, as the people using them should absolutely not be expected to tip.

Up 33 Down 10

2 sides to the story on May 13, 2019 at 9:04 am

I agree with VG. There is probably more to the story and there are always 2 sides. I thought the same thing about them maybe having previous issue with the person seeking the ride or that maybe it's too difficult to get reimbursed by the FN--either they didn't collect all the right info so they weren't paid or it took too long with all the bureaucratic processing.

Up 27 Down 20

BnR on May 13, 2019 at 8:33 am

Josey, what the hell are you babbling about?

Up 37 Down 1

Paul Wray on May 12, 2019 at 7:57 pm

I have had taxis refuse my travel voucher at the Vancouver airport while going out for a medical problem. The drivers do not like the paperwork and have to report the fare as income.

Up 26 Down 18

drum on May 12, 2019 at 4:57 pm

Co-owner of cab company Abdul Sahid saying all the right things in public but maybe there has been trouble in the past with the Kwanlin Dun vouchers. (NHIB) I presume non First Nations do not qualify for these vouchers. Only First Nations.
Why was this man in Vancouver?? Who paid for his round plane trip? We honestly need more information before we all get up in arms and try to turn this into a pick on the First Nations theme.

Up 28 Down 9

My Opinion on May 12, 2019 at 1:59 pm

There is definitely more to this story then what is being said. If the Voucher was the "same as money" then why wouldn't they take him? That is what they do right?

He may have been belligerent with the first driver and was refused and of course by radio they all know. Something happened for sure.
Maybe some of these drivers like cash because they don't pay taxes on cash and don't report the rides to the dispatch, hmmmm.

Up 21 Down 13

Juniper Jackson on May 11, 2019 at 8:34 pm

Seriously Josie.. I agree with you 110%. It's actually much, much worse that this singled out incident.

Up 46 Down 39

VG on May 11, 2019 at 2:28 pm

As a non KDFN person I am intrigued as to why their members qualify for vouchers when the rest of us have to find our own way on medical travel as a patient let alone as a family member.

Also, taxi drivers, like any business have the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason.
Maybe he has caused issues in the past. Maybe getting paid by KDFN for the vouchers is too cumbersome. There is a lot more to the story than ‘I’m a victim’

Up 32 Down 15

moose101 on May 11, 2019 at 6:03 am

Sorry but it's a fact of life people will only interact with others they are comfortable with .

Up 31 Down 20

ian on May 11, 2019 at 2:19 am

I will never take a yellow cab again and I hope other people will do the same it's time for us to standup for others in need.

Up 33 Down 41

Josey Wales on May 10, 2019 at 5:09 pm

Good on Chief Bill, seriously good on her!
The many (not all) newly arrived 3rd world cares little about our world, much less the old world...as we see here with this.
Hence my concern of the 3rd world dominating our already dysfunctional society, our politics and political systems with the aid of political correctness and those that reside here funding our demise.
I hold the belief that we should try better to fix the mess that “diversity is our strength sycophants “ created a long long time ago.
Before we further dilute and ADD to our society dysfunction.
Yes I just typed that, a freely expressed opinion on our history and our future should we be too scared to discuss matters as this.

Chief Bill ..OJW seriously means thank you for doing the right thing during a time when added nonsense just can and often does demoralize one.
Disciplinary action, yeah OK...are we that stupid?
If we keep tolerating this , I suggest we are.
I also suggest...we are not that stupid and October is very close.
Then we can make the choreographer of this mess...a drama teacher again

Up 65 Down 18

Mr M on May 10, 2019 at 4:25 pm

Safer to walk than take a cab in this town. Thank you Chief Doris Bill for doing what we true Yukoner's do and that is true and sincere compassion for those in need.

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