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Taxi board out of order: judge

Told it must provide reasons for revoking licences

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A lineup of taxis stands at the ready for passengers at Richardson International Airport Tuesday. A court has ruled Manitoba's Taxicab Board must provide written reasons for revoking a taxi driver's licence.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

A lineup of taxis stands at the ready for passengers at Richardson International Airport Tuesday. A court has ruled Manitoba's Taxicab Board must provide written reasons for revoking a taxi driver's licence. Photo Store

Manitoba's Taxicab Board has come under fire from Manitoba's top court, saying its practice of failing to provide written reasons when yanking cab drivers' licences is a serious violation of fair process.

"It is important to impress upon the board that, at least where it is ordering the very serious penalty of cancelling a taxicab driver's licence and thereby depriving the holder of earning a livelihood, it must provide reasons for its decision," Court of Appeal Justice Holly Beard said in a written decision issued Tuesday.

The case of the TCB versus Unicity Taxi driver Pritpal Brar is the latest in a series of Appeal Court cases in which the board stripped a licence following a hearing, failed to explain the reason in writing and then saw the case appealed to the top court.

The court ruled Tuesday the board must reinstate Brar's licence and hold a new internal hearing if it's going to proceed with a misconduct complaint against him. Brar, 46, is a longtime cab driver whose licence was revoked a year ago. It was a move prompted by a second-hand complaint alleging Brar acted inappropriately towards a girl he was driving to her group home.

The Winnipeg police child abuse unit got a call on Aug. 28, 2012, from a group home worker claiming the cabbie who dropped the girl off had asked if she wanted alcohol and drugs and flashed a wad of cash, according to court documents.

'It is important to impress upon the board that, at least where it is ordering the very serious penalty of cancelling a taxicab driver's licence and thereby depriving the holder of earning a livelihood, it must provide reasons for its decision'

-- Court of Appeal Justice Holly Beard

The worker also told police the driver asked about other "residences" at the group home, "stated he wanted to party" and then left without further incident.

Police chalked the allegations up to "suspicious circumstance." Provincial court records show Brar was never charged in connection to the incident.

The board opened its own investigation Sept. 13 after being contacted by Child and Family Services in relation to the same allegation. It suspended Brar the next day.

Interviewed by a TCB investigator 10 days later, Brar was confronted with the complaint and vehemently denied it.

"I'm totally 100 per cent innocent of what they are saying," he said, according to notes of the interview. Asked why the complaint would arise, Brar said he didn't know.

"Mystery," he said. "I have no idea, came to me as a shock. Never expected anything like this," he told the investigator, adding he wanted to go before the board to get his licence back.

Days after the interview, he was summoned by letter to a Nov. 21 hearing before the TCB and told he had to show cause why it shouldn't take action against him.

The TCB subpoenaed the police officer to the hearing, asking him to bring any documentation of the investigation with him.

Also before the board were records of a few prior, but unrelated, TCB reprimands Brar has received since 1996 as well as a minor criminal record, which includes a conviction for communication for the purpose of prostitution from 2007 -- for which Brar was fined $150.

After the hearing, Brar's licence was cancelled and he was not given written reasons why. He filed his notice of appeal Dec. 21 and the case has proceeded since then.

The TCB concedes it should have given Brar reasons but asked the court to allow the decision to pull his licence to stand.

Beard said among the TCB's reasons was a full hearing was held in which Brar was given a chance to appear and make his case. As well, Beard said, Brar never raised any issue about procedural fairness at that hearing.

Beard said the TCB's failure to provide reasons to Brar after deciding his case was a "serious breach" of procedural fairness. She noted reasons weren't issued despite the TCB dealing with two other appeals based on the same issue.

"In both of those cases, the board acknowledged that the ground of appeal had merit; yet, it failed to carry through with its obligation to provide Mr. Brar in this case in the same circumstances as the two earlier cases," Beard wrote.

The judge also pointed out the TCB didn't address Brar's claims on appeals he was left unable to confront his accuser because she wasn't produced at the licence hearing to answer questions from either him or the board.

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 20, 2013 A3

History

Updated on Wednesday, November 20, 2013 at 7:24 AM CST: Replaces photo

10:05 AM: corrects typo

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