Taxi licensing

HRM to hold taxi drivers to higher standard in wake of sex assault controversy

Coun. Waye Mason says council needs more power regarding taxi driver licences

A row of taxis in Halifax.   Alex Rose

Halifax regional council unanimously passed a motion Tuesday that will change the way the municipality deals with its taxi drivers.

Coun. Waye Mason introduced the motion in the wake of a controversial court ruling that saw cab driver Bassam Al-Rawi acquitted of sexual assault.

The motion called for a number of changes, including the tightening of taxi driver standards.

We need better language about the duty of care that taxi drivers have as basically representatives of a public service that’s regulated by the government,” Mason said in an interview before the vote.

“It’s not about did they do something criminal or not; it’s about are they trustworthy enough to be allowed to have the privilege of having a licence.”

Mason said the burden of proof, or legal considerations for administrative law, is completely different from criminal law, and therefore there doesn’t need to be a list of forbidden behaviours for a licensed taxi driver.

We shouldn’t need to have a bylaw that says don’t have sex with your paying customers while you’re working,” he said. “It’s good enough to say you have a duty of care and we expect you to have the highest professional standard. Even if the person is entirely consensual and sober, you should not be having sex with your customer when you’re working.”

Another aspect of the motion concerned municipal appeals on licensing, which Mason says is very loose and broad. He finds that licensing appeals should be more complex.

“We treat it the same way we do land use and things like that,” he said. Licensing appeals, he noted, are fundamentally more complicated than land use.

The motion requests a staff report that contains options, recommendations and best practices regarding these issues.

 

Taxi driver agrees

Jean-Paul Gallant is the current treasurer and former president of United Cab Drivers Association of Halifax, the larger of two groups that represent cab drivers in the municipality. He agrees that regional council should have more of a say in taxi licensing.

“There’s not much control or policing on it now, so somebody has to step up and take some responsibility,” he said from his cab on the street, before the council vote took place.

“I can’t see them not being in agreement with it,” said Gallant of his fellow tax drivers.

Gallant was appalled by Al-Rawi’s actions.

“You don’t have any right,” he said. “Like I said, we’re here to serve the public and make sure they get home safe.”

The Al-Rawi case is from May 2015.

Police found the partially naked and unconscious 26-year-old woman in Al-Rawi’s cab, which was parked in a secluded area not on the route to the woman’s home. He held her urine-soaked pants and his own pants were unbuttoned.

Last week, provincial court Judge Gregory Lenehan acquitted Al-Rawi of sexual assault, saying there was not enough evidence to find him guilty. He also sparked outrage when he said in court that “clearly, a drunk can consent.”