Edmonton advocacy groups call for safer, more accessible taxis

A women's safety advocacy group is hoping Edmonton city council will introduce new regulations to keep women safe while using taxis. Getty Images

In a presentation to the community and public services committee Monday, advocacy groups are calling for safer and more accessible taxis in Edmonton.

Angelika Matson with the group Women’s Advocacy Voice of Edmonton (WAVE) described the experiences of some women taking taxis in the city.

In one instance, Matson said a woman was taking a taxi when she began to feel uneasy because of the questions the driver was asking her, such as whether she had a boyfriend and whether she lived alone.

“The cab driver pulled up to her apartment building and asked for her personal phone number so he could ask her for a date,” Matson said.

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“At this point, she heard the passenger locks in the car engage. The cab driver had locked her in the cab and demanded that she give him her personal cell phone number.”

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Matson said the woman was terrified the situation would escalate to physical violence, she eventually conceded, gave the driver her number and a hefty tip hoping he’d leave her alone.

“Over the coming weeks, the cab driver repeatedly called her cell phone harassing her to go on a date with him as often as 10 times a day,” Matson said.

The woman also began to notice the cab driver outside or circling her apartment. Matson said the woman was too terrified to report the incident to police because it was he-said she-said.

“Eventually she moved apartments, blocked his number and never heard from him again,” Matson said.

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However a few years later, when she finally felt safe to take a cab again in Edmonton, the woman was told by the taxi company in question that she could no longer book because the cab driver said she hadn’t paid her fare.

In a letter to city council from WAVE, the group says it would like to be able to provide council with data on the rate of sexual assaults taking place in Edmonton vehicles for hire, but no such data exists.

“While we believe the majority of cab drivers here in Edmonton are really good people providing a good service here in Edmonton, we don’t want a few bad apples to spoil the bunch and we feel like safety issues would address this issue,” Matson said.

Several recommendations from WAVE and the Accessibility Advisory Committee were presented to the council committee Monday including a centralized booking line, a panic button to press in case of emergencies, specialized training for drivers and an increase in accessibility.

Councillors also heard from advocates that many of these issues have been discussed in the past, but there’s been a lack of action from council.

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“We still have years passing without action taken to protect Edmonton’s women in these spaces,” states the WAVE letter to city council.

“Each day that passes without proactively making efforts to address safety in Edmonton’s vehicles for hire, is a day when another Edmontonian risks being sexually assaulted.”



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