The bylaw that governs taxi cab operations will be reviewed by city council later this year.
Mayor Rebecca Alty confirmed the Livery License Bylaw will be up for review for the first time since 2009, but she would not link the move to safety concerns raised by women who say they have been accosted by City Cab drivers.
Earlier this month a Yellowknife woman’s Facebook post about such a creepy experience with a cab driver attracted hundreds of comments with many others sharing similar experiences.
This week, the Status of Women Council of the NWT launched a Taxi Safety Survey. It has 13 questions that can be answered anonymously.
Elder said the idea was borrowed from a taxi survey in Whitehorse conducted by the Yukon’s Status of Women’s Council, and that it was prompted by the recent outcry.
The survey is for all residents of the NWT, not just Yellowknife.
“There are no guarantees as to if we will be participating (in the city’s bylaw review) and we really don’t want to” assume what the survey responses will reveal, Elder said.
“We just want to see what people say.”
Elder said her organization already knows the NWT has among the highest rates of sexual violence in the country and that sexual violence is significantly underreported.
Women are also more likely to experience violence in general, which can lead to a sense of vulnerability.
These trends may or may not tie into needed improvements to the Livery License Bylaw, she added.
“Depending on what we find, we will share it with the taxi cab companies and the municipal corporation,” Elder said. “If there are recommendations that come out of it, it will go through our governing board to decide if we need to take any further action.
“Whether or not there would be the need for a gender-based analysis of the bylaw, for example, the timing of it would be good if the city is reviewing the bylaw.”
City needs ‘folks to come forward’
Alty said on Wednesday some aspects of the cab bylaw are related to promoting safety. Drivers convicted of a crime are to lose their chauffeur licence, for example.
“So it is taken seriously, but we do need folks to come forward and bring those complaints to be investigated so they can be resolved,”Alty said.
She said questions related to the bylaw should be directed to the Municipal Enforcement Division: email email@example.com, call 920-5630 or visit city hall between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Monday to Friday.
Criminal complaints should go to Yellowknife RCMP at 867-669-1111.
Call 911 in an emergency.
Alty said that with the Livery License Bylaw not being updated in over a decade, a review is much needed.
The MED will lead the review and will make recommendations sometime during the last quarter of 2021.
“It’s hard to say what recommendations will be as both drivers and passengers have expressed concerns about their safety with the most serious one being the death of a taxi driver in 2018,” Alty said. “I do see that the Status of Women is compiling stories and may come forward and update us as the livery bylaw is reviewed. That would be welcome for recommendations.”
In recent years, the City of Yellowknife has seen high profile public safety issues with taxi cab drivers.
On Nov. 19, 2018, longtime cab driver Ahmed Mahamud Ali was pronounced dead while on the job for City Cab. Elias Schiller, 18, and James Schiller, 49, were both charged with murder in connection with Ali’s death. In October 2019, they pleaded guilty to lesser offences and went to prison.
And in January 2020, city council removed Abdullahi Ali’s chauffeur’s permit after he was convicted of assaulting a male victim in 2019.