Meghan Roberts, CTV Winnipeg, Feb 2, 2016
Multiple indigenous organizations have received complaints from indigenous women about taxi services.
Those complaints prompted the creation of Neechi Rides and Ikwe.
Pernell Flett started Neechi Rides in mid-December.
He grew frustrated after hearing complaints about poor treatment, including by his own niece.
Flett said the 14-year-old told him that a cab driver propositioned her for sex in lieu of payment.
“They look at our women as like…no feelings. They have no feelings. And they look at them as a sex object,” said Flett.
He offers free rides to indigenous Winnipeggers. Flett answers calls 24/7 and drives between 13 and 20 customers a day.
Ikwe, a ride-sharing program for women, also started in response to safety complaints from indigenous women.
Jackie Traverse said some women don’t feel comfortable getting into a car with a stranger.
“I started it to connect women with other women, women with vehicles, women needing rides and to create safety,” said Traverse.
Traverse said her friends have been spat on, abandoned, and inappropriately touched by cab drivers.
“There’s that kind of disrespect, that kind of treatment, and we’re paying for this service? It’s ridiculous and it just has to end,” she said.
Ikwe already has about 20 volunteer drivers. Traverse hopes the ride-sharing service in a temporary fix to the problem. Ultimately, she’d like to see a cab company run by indigenous people.
The Bear Clan has also received complaints from indigenous women about taxi cab rides.
The volunteer community patrol group is working on an education campaign, with support from the Winnipeg Police Service.
“We’re working on an educational piece that we can offer to the taxi board and their drivers. Something a little bit about the loss of land and our respect for the women,” said James Favel with the Bear Clan.
The Winnipeg Police Service said it does not track taxi complaints or incidents.
The Manitoba Taxicab Board does, and it said it’s not hearing these stories.
“Many of the complaints you may hear about anecdotally or in the media are never filed with the board,” said chairperson David Sanders.
Sanders said he wants to hear about these incidents, and encouraged people to file formal complaints with the board.
The province and Taxicab Board are in the middle of a comprehensive review of the taxi industry.
Sanders said there will be public consultations as part of that process.