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Volunteers launch ride-sharing service for indigenous women

Pernell Flett is operator of Neechi Rides, a volunteer ride service he is operating by himself to help indigenous people get safe transportation.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Pernell Flett is operator of Neechi Rides, a volunteer ride service he is operating by himself to help indigenous people get safe transportation.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 31/1/2016 (1015 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A Facebook post about threatening and racist behaviour by a taxi cab driver toward Rosanna Deerchild over the weekend has sparked a new idea for safe transportation for indigenous women in Winnipeg.

Winnipeg artist Jackie Traverse started a unique ride-sharing group called “Ikwe (women helping women safe ride)” on Facebook on Sunday afternoon after hearing about what happened Friday night to Deerchild, an indigenous woman who is the well-known host of CBC Radio’s Unreserved program.

Deerchild’s post stated that the driver of a taxi cab she had hired to take her to her home Friday night from the King’s Head Pub threatened her and drove her to the Main Street Project and ordered her to get out after she took a photo of his cab number.

“As I always do — I snapped a pic of the cab number to send to my friend. The driver got angry and demanded I delete it. I refused and explained that I was keeping myself safe. He tried to kick me out in the middle of the street. I refused and calmly explained it was not safe,” Deerchild wrote in her post, which did not name the taxi company involved. Deerchild could not be reached by the Free Press for comment.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 31/1/2016 (1015 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A Facebook post about threatening and racist behaviour by a taxi cab driver toward Rosanna Deerchild over the weekend has sparked a new idea for safe transportation for indigenous women in Winnipeg.

Winnipeg artist Jackie Traverse started a unique ride-sharing group called "Ikwe (women helping women safe ride)" on Facebook on Sunday afternoon after hearing about what happened Friday night to Deerchild, an indigenous woman who is the well-known host of CBC Radio’s Unreserved program.

Deerchild’s post stated that the driver of a taxi cab she had hired to take her to her home Friday night from the King’s Head Pub threatened her and drove her to the Main Street Project and ordered her to get out after she took a photo of his cab number.

"As I always do — I snapped a pic of the cab number to send to my friend. The driver got angry and demanded I delete it. I refused and explained that I was keeping myself safe. He tried to kick me out in the middle of the street. I refused and calmly explained it was not safe," Deerchild wrote in her post, which did not name the taxi company involved. Deerchild could not be reached by the Free Press for comment.

Deerchild’s post stated that once at the Main Street Project, the driver called two police officers over and told them Deerchild was "being unruly and refused to pay." The post said when the officers "threatened me with arrest" and "threatened to take me to the drunk tank," she was able to assure them she had money and was just trying to be safe.

"I calmly explained again that I had done nothing to warrant that. They told me ‘then just get out of the cab.’ I refused saying it was not safe in this area. I just wanted to go home. The police told the cab driver to take me home. He did after much verbal abuse. I paid 10 dollars and got out. Stay safe they say. But not if it offends a man. Brown girls are never safe," Deerchild’s post stated.

The post has been widely shared on social media — it had been shared Sunday night from her page nearly 2,000 times since she posted it and has also been copied and shared numerous times by others.

Traverse said incidents like that and worse have just happened too many times, to her daughters, other indigenous women she knows and many she doesn’t know. It was time to take action so she started her ride sharing group.

"As soon as you get in (a cab), they’re like ‘do you have money?’ They’re rude and demand you pay now or they want a flat rate and sometimes, if you don’t want to pay their flat rate, they kick you out of the cab. They assume I’m going to ditch the cab or I don’t have money to pay for the cab," said Traverse. "I swear, 99 per cent of the time when I get in a cab, I have to pay up front."

Traverse describes her ride sharing group as being created "to ensure women and girls can get safe rides home, to run errands, etc. No more racial profiling, discrimination, unwanted sexual advances, rudeness and the list goes on." Women who can offer rides to those in need are asked to join the group and post availability. Women needing rides are also asked to join the group so that they can privately message someone to book a safe ride.

"It’s on a donation basis, we’re not running a business. It’s called ‘women helping women so you’re helping each other out.’ If you can’t pay gas, fine. Let’s just help each other out," Traverse said.

Pernell Flett has been providing such a service for over a month now since starting his volunteer safe rides service called Neechi Rides. He has also heard many stories, one involving his niece, of taxi cab drivers trying to touch indigenous women or take them places where they don’t want to be and did not ask to go.

"I got tired of hearing what’s happening with taxis with our indigenous people, especially the women, and enough’s enough now. It was time to do something about it. I made my post and it’s been crazy ever since," Flett said. He said he doesn’t trust taxis for his own four daughters.

Flett uses his own vehicle to provide rides for indigenous people needing safe transportation. Those needing rides can contact him through his Facebook page "Neechi Ridess" to request a ride at no charge but donations are accepted. He said he’s been averaging more than 10-15 rides per day.

"It’s not about money. It’s about the safety of indigenous people," Flett said. "These stories bother me. One lady told me that a cab took off with her grandchild in the back of a cab and she had to throw an orange at the window to get the cab to stop."

Flett said his initiative has the support of Grand Chief Derek Nepinak of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, with whom he met last Thursday.

Traverse said if indigenous women find they must take a taxi cab, she said her own experience, on the same day Deerchild’s incident occurred, shows that carrying a briefcase can help keep them safe.

"Because I’m an artist, I was carrying my portfolio coming from the school and I got into a cab," Traverse said. "He noticed my portfolio and I was treated differently. I wasn’t asked those questions about ‘do you have money’ or (told) ‘you pay ahead of time’ and that’s not normal," Traverse said. "Because I was coming from a school, I was dressed up and carrying my portfolio, he assumed this person has money. I said (in a Facebook post) I recommend all First Nations carry a portfolio or empty briefcase when catching cabs to avoid any potential hassle."

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

 

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