London community rallies around cancer survivor hit with fine for offering patients at-cost rides to hospital

-. St. Joseph's Health Care /

A go-fund-me campaign has blown past its target and raised more than $4,600 for a London, Ont., cancer survivor who was fined $2,200 for charging other cancer patients a small fee to drive them to their medical appointments.

As of 4 p.m. Wednesday, the fundraiser had reached just over $4,600, well beyond the $3,000 goal.

The case of the 58-year-old woman, as first reported by the London Free Press, has struck a chord through London. A London City Councillor has vowed to raise the issue before City Council, while the director of a local legal aid clinic launched the crowdfunding campaign to help cover the woman’s fine and legal fees.

The unidentified 58-year-old cancer survivor charges $12 a ride to shuttle patients in need to and from their appointments. The money covers gas and maintenance.

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The woman was slapped with a more than $2,200 fine after a bylaw officer posed as a patient to pay for the roundtrip ride. After the ride, she was hit with the fine for operating a vehicle for hire without a licence.

980 CFPL has not been able to get in contact with the woman.

“I guess it fell under that bylaw,” said Ward 14 Coun. Jared Zaifman.

“Was this a bit over bearing, was this a bit harsh? I would say yes,” he said

What’s tricky, said Zaifman, is council can’t just reverse the fine.

“As much as this is extremely disheartening to me because I don’t know why exactly it was that our enforcement officers did this sting operation, once this has happened we have laws that disallow council from saying, ‘Stop, don’t do this anymore, get rid of the ticket.’ We can’t do that,” he said.

Meantime, Jeff Schlemmer, head of Neighbourhood Legal Services, has started a gofundme campaign to help cover the cost of the fine.

“It just drives me crazy when bureaucrats find a way to punish people for doing sensible, altruistic things,” he said.

“This is a woman is living on ODSP benefits, disability benefits of about $900 a month. There’s no way she’s going to be able to pay off more than $2,200 in fines,” he said.

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Schlemmer has doubts the woman even breached the bylaw, noting it was meant for vehicle-for-hire services, such as Uber.

“I can understand if they said, ‘Technically you’re doing something wrong, here’s a ticket for $100, don’t do it again.’ That’s proportionate, that’s going to shut her down, that would achieve their objective,” Schlemmer said.

“A $2,200 fine is obviously aimed at a company. It’s not aimed at a disabled person on a fixed income,” he said.

“It just seems nothing but cruel and punitive to hit her with it.”

Zaifman said he’ll bring the issue up at council next week.

“The person didn’t get a warning, which is a little strange. If you’re doing something that is against these bylaws, rather than simply just going after them, … [the bylaw officers] should say, ‘You can’t do this because of such and such reasons,'” he said.
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“My understanding is that that didn’t really happen, and I would like to know why,” Zaifman said.