A First Nations woman from northern Manitoba and visiting Winnipeg says a taxi driver demanded a “deposit” before he would carry on with the ride.
On Feb. 15, Loretta Caribou from Mathias Colomb Cree Nation said she requested a ride from a home in Winnipeg to her hotel.
She said midway through the trip, the driver stopped and asked for cash before continuing.
“I kept asking him, ‘Why was he asking me? Was it because I’m First Nation?’ Right away I thought about racial profiling and as an Indigenous woman I felt like I was being a target,” Caribou said.
Caribou recorded part of the conversation with the driver.
“Why are you asking me to give a deposit before my destination?” Caribou can be heard on the video.
She eventually gave the driver $10 because she didn’t want to be kicked out of the car.
“I wasn’t familiar with the area and I didn’t want to end up on the streets because it was extremely cold that day,” she said. “So, I just gave him a deposit and then even after I gave him the deposit I still didn’t feel safe and I still had that fear if I pay him how do I know he’ll take me to my destination or just dump me somewhere else.
“That was the fear I was still feeling.”
APTN News reached out to the city of Winnipeg asking if its policy for drivers to ask for payment before or during departure.
“Drivers are not permitted to stop a taxi and ask for a deposit/fare mid-trip. Under section 59(1) of the Vehicle For Hire by-law, drivers are permitted to ask for pre-payment; however, they should only be asking for pre-payment in cases where there is a known history of non-payment of fares. Otherwise, they are not supposed to ask for pre-payment,” said Adam Campbell, communications officer with the city of Winnipeg.
Unicity Taxi said the driver explained that the taxi hadn’t left yet and are investigating the incident.
“We have called the driver to ask more questions like what exactly happened right, so around that, then we can make some decisions like if we need to take any disciplinary action on that or not, whether he said anything wrong to that person or not,” said Manmohan Gill, Unicity taxi manager.
Caribou’s experience prompted Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO), which represents First Nations in Manitoba’s north, to issue a warning to First Nations citizens regarding taxis.
“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,” said MKO Grand Chief Garrison Settee in a statement.
In the fall of 2021, a First Nations woman said she was assaulted by a Unicity driver. Winnipeg police later announced charges against the driver.
And a First Nations man was also asked for payment after the trip had started in October 2021.
Caribou said she will file a complaint with Unicity taxi.