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Indigenous woman scared when cabbie demands deposit mid-ride

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An Indigenous woman from a northern community said she’s traumatized after having to pay a deposit to avoid being forced out of a taxi mid-ride in Winnipeg.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 02/03/2022 (335 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

An Indigenous woman from a northern community said she’s traumatized after having to pay a deposit to avoid being forced out of a taxi mid-ride in Winnipeg.

Loretta Caribou of Mathias Colomb Cree Nation said she got in a Unicity taxi to travel to her hotel while visiting Winnipeg on Feb. 15. The driver stopped after traveling two blocks and demanded she pay a deposit of $10 to continue her trip.

“I was very scared because I didn’t want to be dropped off anywhere,” Caribou, 55, told the Free Press Wednesday. “I’m not familiar with the place, and then it was cold out there.”

A Winnipeg taxi driver allegedly stopped after traveling two blocks and demanded an Indigenous woman pay a deposit of $10 to continue her trip. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press files)

In a video she recorded, she can be heard asking, “You don’t trust me because I’m Indigenous?” and the driver, whose face isn’t shown, said, “I asked you for the deposit, can you give me some money?”

She believes it was a case of racial profiling, she said.

“I just feel like as a woman, everybody takes advantage of us, no matter what age we are… it does have a lot to do with me being an Indigenous woman,” she said.

Drivers can request a deposit of $10, but not mid-ride.

Unicity Taxi manager Manmohan Gill said no complaint about the incident had been filed.

If it is proven the driver had acted inappropriately, there are disciplinary measures ranging from a fine starting at $50 to a suspension, he said.

In February, the City of Winnipeg public service recommended the vehicles-for-hire bylaw be changed to subject drivers to a $250 fine for insulting or harassing passengers. Gill said he didn’t support the idea because he believes it would unfairly fine drivers, who earn low wages, even if the driver is innocent.

“If a driver is getting fined for every day, every second day, $250, then how will he be (able) to do this job? No one will be driving a taxi then,” he said.

It should be up to cab companies to make their own rules and disciplinary measures, he said.

“There are some cases when the drivers are guilty, and there were (cases) in the past, and they were fined for those cases accordingly,” he said.

In October, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, the organization for northern bands, issued a warning to Indigenous women after two taxi drivers in Winnipeg were charged in connection with violent encounters with female passengers.

“MKO continues to have concerns about the safety of First Nations citizens using taxis in Winnipeg… we continue to call on all taxi companies and the City of Winnipeg to step up to ensure First Nations people can access safe taxi services,” Grand Chief Garrison Settee said in a statement Wednesday

Caribou said she cried during the rest of the drive to her hotel and thinks about the incident every day.

“At first, I didn’t want to say anything. I guess I was afraid,” she said.

“Then I thought about it again, and I thought, ‘Well, if I don’t say anything, who will speak for these women that can’t speak for themselves, and are afraid to speak.’ So I wanted to be their voice and say something.”

malak.abas@freepress.mb.ca

Malak Abas

Malak Abas
Reporter

Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.

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