“It gets scary, because they’re in control,” she said.
Police are investigating a reported sexual assault that occurred over the weekend in Notre-Dame-de-Grace. According to authorities, it is one of 17 sexual assaults reported involving taxi cabs this year; there were 29 reported assaults last year.
“Unfortunately that’s just the tip of the iceberg, because sexual assault is such an underreported crime,” said Jennifer Drummond, the coordinator of the Concordia University Sexual Assault Resource Centre.
Not only do advocates fear that the crime is underreported, they are concerned that basic steps aren’t being taken to curb the crime.
“We have to find a way so that not just anybody is out on the street driving a cab,” said June Michell, of Women Aware.
Michell made reference to the fact that criminal background checks are not performed on drivers when they receive their medallions.
According to the Montreal Taxi Bureau, the only drivers who are screened that way are the roughly 3,000 who drive adapted transit vehicles for the municipal transit authority. This leaves about 9,000 drivers in Montreal who do not have to submit to background checks.
Although provincial law mandates that drivers cannot be on the road with offences on their record within the past five years, bureau officials say the law is vague and that there’s no meaningful mechanism in place to enforce it.
“A taxi is one of the few safe places,” Michell said. “When we talk to our daughters, when we talk to women, we say — ‘if you’re going out at night and you need to get home, take a cab.'”
Taxi Montreal sent out an open letter saying that it will fully cooperate with the police investigation into the assault.
“Our drivers are the city’s ambassadors,” the letter read.
“We regret that this news casts a shadow over the work of thousands of taxi drivers who offer safe and professional service to their clientele.”
Police are still investigating the crime.