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This article was published 18/2/2016 (1431 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Indigenous activist Leah Gazan hopes her appointment to the Manitoba Taxicab Board will help increase safety in Winnipeg taxis.
The province appointed Gazan, an instructor at the University of Winnipeg, to the board that regulates the taxi industry in Winnipeg.
Gazan steps into her role during a period in which the taxi industry has come under intense fire.
In a Facebook post, Rosanna Deerchild, a well-known host of CBC Radio’s Unreserved, detailed what she said was a harrowing experience with a cab driver. She alleged a taxi driver threatened her and took her to the Main Street Project after she took a picture of the driver.
In response, a group of indigenous women started their own ride-sharing group called Ikwe (women helping women safe ride) on Facebook, to ensure women and girls have a safe ride home.
Gazan said stories such as Deerchild’s and the creation of the ride-sharing group indicate the relationship between the public and the taxi industry must change.
"There are common stories in our community about experiences with cab drivers, and I think the fact women are taking a lead role in trying to find a way to assist their community members to get to safe places is indicative of needed changes that have to happen so the public feels safe," Gazan said.
Along with teaching indigenous courses at the U of W, Gazan is the former president of the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg and has been an active member of the Idle No More campaign. She is a member of Wood Mountain Lakota Nation, a First Nations community in Saskatchewan.
She hopes to work with board members to implement harassment training and cultural-proficiency training for drivers.
"Since there are so many allegations surrounding sexual and other harassment, drivers need to know what that is, what the legal parameters around harassment are, before they take on that job," she said.
Municipal Government Minister Drew Caldwell said the appointment has been in the works for about six weeks.
He said her appointment brings more diversity to the board, and he hopes her history of engagement on First Nations issues can assist in bridging the gap between the community and industry.
"Having First Nations eyes and ears on our boards and commissions, not just the taxicab board, I think is important in addressing the issue of racism head-on and with vigour.
"So (Gazan) is a board member who will bring a good skill-set and a good set of eyes and ears for issues of race and racism in the taxi industry," Caldwell said.
Taxicab board chairman David Sanders welcomed the addition to the seven-member board, noting she has a variety of skills beyond her ties to the indigenous community.
"While I do not know Ms. Gazan yet, I understand that she is the (former) president of the social planning council, which means she is certainly familiar with needs and issues within the broader community, not just the indigenous community," Sanders said.
The date for Gazan’s first board meeting has not been scheduled