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11 Toronto UberX drivers face charges following police sting

WATCH: In a crowded west Toronto courtroom, 11 drivers working for the ride-sharing service UberX faced charges Tuesday morning following a police sting operation last month.

TORONTO – In a crowded west Toronto courtroom, 11 drivers working for the ride-sharing service UberX faced charges Tuesday morning following a police sting operation last month.

The drivers were all charged under three sections of Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act in what was called “Operation Catch Me If You Can” crackdown in February by officers in Toronto’s 12 Division north of Eglinton Avenue West.

Some of the drivers were charged for not having proper insurance. Section 23.1 of the Act reads: “Every person carrying goods for any other person for compensation shall obtain and carry the insurance that is required by the regulations and shall ensure that the evidence of the insurance is carried in every commercial motor vehicle of the operator that is being used to transport goods for compensation.”

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Drivers also faced charges under the Act that prohibits someone from “picking up or arranging to pick up a passenger” without a license. The charges have been set over until May 12 when prosecutors must provide legal disclosure to the defence.

Uber has hired criminal defence lawyer Gerald Chan to represent the drivers. He declined to speak to reporters after the court hearing. Chan’s online biography describes him as “an expert in digital search and seizure law (who) provides advice on compliance with anti-spam, anti-corruption, and anti-money laundering statutes.” Chan is a partner of renowned Toronto lawyer Clayton Ruby.

Uber has hired criminal defence lawyer Gerald Chan. Sean O'Shea/Global News

Global News contacted Uber Canada for a response. But instead, the company emailed to say it was banning our intern from the service for requesting (and paying for) Uber rides in reporting this story where we asked drivers whether they have sufficient insurance.

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“This unnecessarily puts our 3rd party drivers on the spot and interferes with their ability to earn on the Uber platform. Given that [he] has been using his personal account is violating our terms of service, we’ve had to ban him on the platform,” said Susie Heath, senior communications associate for Uber Canada.

Heath went on to ask Global to “obtain consent from our driver partners for any footage that was obtained…can you please confirm that you will do so?”

Videotaping of Uber drivers was all done on public property.

The City of Toronto is challenging Uber separately in court arguing drivers are not permitted to pick up passengers. The city also argues Uber has not proven drivers carry the required $2 million liability insurance required of taxi drivers.

One of Toronto’s largest taxi services welcomed the charges.

“Co-op is happy to see that Uber is finally going to have to address questions for its conduct,” the company said in a statement. “It’s a testament to the fact that they have been operating illegally and putting the public in danger. Uber cannot continue to avoid vital standards of public safety, cost, service and insurance protections.”