Halifax taxi industry still waiting on safety measures report
The acquittal of a Halifax taxi driver on sexual assault charges has again refocused attention on the question of taxi safety.
The taxi industry is still waiting on a report from city staff requested eight months ago, after a string of alleged assaults.
Dave Buffett, head of the Halifax Taxi Drivers Association says he was very public about pushing for better safety measures. That was back in the summer, after a string of alleged sexual assaults by cab drivers prompted demands for change.
"I was a strong advocate for cameras prior to this meeting," says Buffett.
But if you hail a cab in Halifax today, there's no guarantee it will have a dashcam, or a police controlled GPS unit; both suggestions made months ago.
Halifax Police say there have been 14 allegations of sexual assault in taxis in the last five years. Of the five incidents in 2016, two men have been charged with sexual assault in three cases.
One case was closed due to lack of evidence, and another at the request of the victim.
"Really good work on the police department because it wasn't easy in some cases to determine who the perpetrators were," says Buffett.
But Buffett says it should be easier. That was the point of a special meeting of the Halifax Taxi Liaison Committee in late July.
The committee asked HRM staff to prepare a safety report, looking into mandatory GPS systems and cameras, bylaw changes and licensing standards.
The report was supposed to be in the committee's hands in September. Council was re-elected in October and there's been no news since.
A municipal spokesperson now says that the timeline was unrealistic, and the report is expected in the coming months.
"It's concerning, I know that there's work being done on it. I think there's a lot more awareness now than there ever was on the potential issues," says Councillor Matt Whitman.
“Our staff is aware, and I think everyone is aware, it’s somewhere in the bureaucracy and I’m not sure where,” says Councillor Stephen Adams.
Adams says the bureaucratic process may move faster if the taxi commission were revived.
"Well the taxi commission deals with taxi related issues, nothing else," says Adams.
Regardless of which committee makes the decisions, Dave Buffett says he wants to see action, so that everyone getting into a taxi feels safe doing so.
A spokesperson for the HRM says work has been done on taxi safety. Police put out safety tips last summer, and there is better signage in taxis to ensure passengers see the driver's name and roof light number.
But Dave Buffett says the municipality hasn't offered any extra training for drivers, although Casino Taxi has.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Sarah Ritchie.