Officials with the Yukon Women’s Coalition say they’re pleased the city will consult with stakeholders, industry and other governments as a review of the vehicle for hire bylaw gets underway.
On Monday evening, city council voted to go ahead with the consultation and review after concerns were raised by local women’s groups in December 2017.
Following Monday’s vote, the women’s coalition released a statement praising the move.
“We are pleased with the city council’s decision to take the issue of taxi safety seriously,” said Élaine Michaud, executive director of Les EssentiElles, one of the groups involved.
“Bylaw has reached out to members of the Yukon Women’s Coalition to collaborate on exploring the recommendations we put forward at the Dec. 4th city council meeting.
“Last winter, members of the Yukon Women’s Coalition met with representatives of two of the largest cab companies in town to discuss concerns brought forward by members of the public about sexualized assault and harassment involving cab drivers in Whitehorse.
“We hope to see cab companies take leadership and develop internal mechanisms that will increase safety for passengers and drivers.”
The groups brought forward a number of recommendations to the city aimed at keeping passengers safe. They include:
• a requirement that the in-vehicle cameras be tamper-proof, with footage sent to the city every 24 hours;
• a public education campaign be created; and
• training be provided to drivers.
The bylaw was last changed in 2015 to require stricter criminal records checks for drivers.
Other changes were also made then that came into effect last year requiring cabs to have cameras in vehicles (though they are not tamper-proof and footage is not required to be sent to the city) as well as services for people with disabilities.
While council was unanimous Monday in voting for the consultation and review to go ahead, Coun. Betty Irwin stressed the need for staff to exercise caution in considering how the bylaw might be changed.
Safety, she said, is very important. At the same time, she argued, too many restrictions being imposed could make it next to impossible for cab companies to operate.
Irwin said she’s looking forward to the results of the review when it’s completed.
Meanwhile, Coun. Samson Hartland recalled the shock in the community after a cab driver was charged in October 2017 with sexual assault against two female passengers.
Hartland commended city administration with taking a proactive approach on the issue.
“This is a first step,” he said. “There are more to come.”
Council has been told of several instances where bylaw officers’ checks of taxis have revealed that the cameras installed in the vehicles were not functioning.