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    Sandy Silver interview April 8, 2022 CHONfm

Dozens rally outside Whitehorse city hall demanding improved taxi safety

A recent report found that Indigenous women are facing more violence in cabs.

People rallied in front of Whitehorse city hall this afternoon.

Viola Papequash drummed as dozens of people with signs in hand gathered outside of Whitehorse City Hall this afternoon to mark international women’s day and urge the city to take action towards improving taxi safety.

 

The rally comes just a few months after the release of a report on taxi safety in the capitol city that shows Indigenous women are experiencing a higher severity of violence in cabs compared to non-Indigenous women.

 

Today’s gathering was hosted by the Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council. They are launching a new public education campaign to spread awareness about sexual harassment and gender-based violence in the territory.

 

Related – Indigenous women in Whitehorse say they have been coerced for sex in taxis

 

“This is just about educating the public about taxi safety in the community [and] reporting methods for Indigenous women and where they can access support,” says project coordinator Meesha Wittkopf.

 

“I’m standing up for more collaboration with bylaw and the federal government,” Wittkopf adds.

 

“It’s unfortunate that we have to rally for this in general but I’m also hopeful because it is these people that show up that push these advocacy issues even further,” Wittkopf continues.

 

The recently released “Taxi Safety Report” by the Yukon Women’s Coalition contains over 14 recommendations on how to improve cab safety. The recommendations include things like increasing enforcement, random checking of drivers, new technology like panic buttons and GPS tracking, and the establishment of a transportation safety committee. These are changes that would fall under the city’s vehicle for hire bylaw.

 

City council and administrative roundtable held “behind closed doors”

City councillor Michelle Friesen showed up to today’s rally.

After the report was released, the Yukon Women’s Coalition presented their findings to Whitehorse city council. The city then agreed to have a council and administrative roundtable meeting to discuss the report. A communications person from the city of Whitehorse tells CHONfm that the meeting happened last Thursday “behind closed doors.”  They say that’s allowed in certain circumstances under the “Municipal Act.”

 

City councillor and Ta’an Kwäch’än Council citizen Michelle Friesen was in attendance today. CHONfm asked her how the meeting went.

 

“We were able to meet with bylaw and RCMP and some of the admin from city hall. There were a number of recommendations that were brought forward to us that I look forward to discussing further with city council,” says Friesen.

 

Friesen says she came out today because she wanted to show her support.

 

“As an Indigenous woman, seeing our community just being disproportionality represented when it comes to gender-based violence, not only in taxis but in general, it’s difficult to continue seeing that type of statistic coming forward,” says Friesen.

 

“I’ll continue using my voice at the table and bringing those concerns forward and just seeing what part the city can play, because it will take more than just the city,” Friesen adds.

Public education campaign project coordinator Meesha Wittkopf poses with a sign that reads “support get there safe.”

Wittkopf says she is happy to see the city expanding public transportation to include Sunday service, providing more options for women to get home, but more needs to be done.

 

Now she is working with bylaw service and taxi drivers to hopefully make some changes.

 

Published March 8 ,2022.

Written by: Dylan MacNeil

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