Lana Lewis says she enjoys her weekly visits to the Arctic Indigenous Wellness Camp in Yellowknife.
On March 1, she planned a trip to the camp, a non-profit locally run program which serves clients who may need help with mental health and addictions, and followed her routine and called Aurora Taxi to send a car to take her there.
She says this time, things turned ugly.
“As soon as I got into the cab he (the driver) was putting down Natives saying we don’t work and we’re on crack and that’s why they have a dispatcher from Edmonton because none of us work,” says Lewis, a Gwich’in woman and resident of Yellowknife. “I told him we’re not all like that I come from a working family.”
Lewis says the five minute commute was cut short.
“He opened my passenger door and told me to get out,” she alleges.”I was getting out he dragged me. I let go of the cab and he was gone.”
Lewis says she filed a complaint and photographed the injuries on her hands and leg.
The RCMP in Yellowknife sent APTN News a statement saying it’s investigating the “alleged assault.”
But Lewis is one of many in the north who are sharing their experience using taxis.
Last month, Deanna Jumbo shared her negative experience using taxis in Yellowknife in a Facebook post.
“As soon as he started asking really personal questions I kind of shut him down,” she wrote. “I looked at him really mean and said can you just stop. He kinda got quiet for the rest of the ride and when he dropped me off at my friend’s hotel he kinda waited for me, I could see in the reflection of the door.”
Her story gained traction.
The Status of Women Council NWT launched an anonymous taxi safety survey where patrons and cab drivers can share experiences and make recommendations.
Clip: Louise Elders – Executive Director, Status of Women Council of the NWT
“We noticed the post of a woman sharing her experience of sexual harassment in a cab as a warning to other women. There were so many responses from other women we thought we needed to pay attention,” says Louise Elders, executive director of the SOWC.
“We also were aware our sister organization in the Yukon was running a taxi safety survey.”
Elders says the council is currently compiling the data from the survey and a report is due out later in March.
“There’s definitely many people who do not feel safe in taxi cabs across the north so unfortunately confirmed our suspicions,” Elders says. “There were some situations as a lay person seemed criminal in nature which is really sad and horrifying.
APTN News requested an interview with Aurora Taxi but didn’t hear back.
Lewis says she hopes her story will help others come forward.
“That it got brought out in the open, it’s not just a another native case to be pushed under the rug. I’d like all of them brought out and justice against them because this can’t go on.”