A new survey shows Indigenous women are three times more likely to report harassment when taking a taxi in Whitehorse compared to non-Indigenous women.
The statistics come from the Taxi Safety Report, released by the Yukon Women’s Coalition (YWC).
“It is evident that taxis are still not a safe transportation option, particularly for Indigenous women,” the report says.
The survey was launched early last year after a woman shared a sexualized violence encounter she had with a Whitehorse taxi driver on a Facebook group, sparking several other women to share their own similar stories.
The report notes, “YWC launched a survey to hear directly from community members about what was happening and what needs to change.”
During the survey period, 174 people responded, 160 of whom identified as women.
Forty-nine respondents identified as Indigenous women.
The survey found 49 per cent of Indigenous women reported feeling targeted when taking a cab, compared to 10 per cent of non-Indigenous women.
Almost twice as many Indigenous respondents reported offers, threats, or coercion to exchange fares for sex than non-Indigenous women – 22 per cent for Indigenous women as opposed to 12 per cent for non-Indigenous women.
Fourteen per cent of Indigenous respondents also reported being touched or assaulted, in comparison to five per cent of non-Indigenous women.
When asked if the respondents knew “these behaviours and incidents can be reported to Bylaw Services,” 61 per cent of Indigenous respondents versus 53 per cent of non-Indigenous respondents were not aware incidents can be reported.
Among Indigenous respondents, 41 per cent were aware they could report criminal incidents to the RCMP, while almost one-third were aware, but did not want to report it; one in ten did not know they could report it.
Several Indigenous respondents said they were reluctant to report incidents to the RCMP, stating “Cops don’t do anything, “I haven’t been touched” and “Didn’t feel like enough to report.”
Two Indigenous respondents said they did report the incident to the RCMP, but were unsatisfied with the results.
“RCMP were involved and not helpful,” said one respondent.
Another noted, “Yes but the police didn’t do anything because the cab company changed the number on the van and said it didn’t exist.”
APTN News contacted the RCMP about the issues but did not hear back.
The report says generally Indigenous and non-Indigenous respondents described similar experiences, however, “Indigenous women disclosed a greater number of incidents, higher severity of violence and generally were not as willing to report incidents to Whitehorse Bylaw or the RCMP, or aware that they could.”
Aja Mason, executive director of the Yukon Status of Women Council (YSWC), which is part of the YWC, says something needs to be done.
“To find out taxis are a place where violence is occurring, is troubling to say the least,” says Mason.
However, Mason says she’s not surprised by the findings.
“We know using an intersectional feminist lens that Indigenous women in particular experience high rates of violence, disproportionately so across multiple different metrics,” she says.
Mason says colonization and distrust of the RCMP mean oftentimes Indigenous people are reluctant to report inappropriate or even criminal incidents occurring in taxis.
“There’s a huge disconnect as to what’s actually happening to people and what’s getting reported,” she says.
“We need to develop better informal reporting mechanisms for people who are experiencing violence as a means for us to actually inform policies …especially for us to be able to describe to decision-makers and folks who are actually creating these programs, what’s actually happening on the ground.”
APTN reached out to the four taxi companies operating in Whitehorse but didn’t hear back.
The survey recommends several improvements like increasing driver training and enhancing camera integrity, so all women can feel safer when taking a cab.
APTN reached out to the City of Whitehorse for comment on the findings. A spokesperson says YSWC has delayed presenting the report to council for two weeks in order for councillors to have more time to review the report.
Ultimately, Mason says it’s up to all levels of government, as well as First Nations governments, to make cabs safer for everyone.
“Women need access to transportation to move through the world with safety and access to economic security, and furthermore as a means to escape situations that are unsafe for them.”