Abuse hurled at Iqaluit cab drivers discussed at safety committee

Public awareness campaign that profiles the lives of taxi drivers under consideration

Iqaluit’s public safety committee discussed how to address the abuse faced by taxi drivers in the city. (File Photo)

By David Lochead

Updated on Friday, Oct. 8 at 9:50 p.m.

Iqaluit’s public safety committee is mulling the launch of a campaign to encourage respectful behaviour towards the city’s taxi drivers, following last month’s incidents of rock-throwing and racial abuse.

At a Monday meeting, committee members discussed the abuse faced by taxi drivers in Iqaluit and potential solutions. Nearly a month ago, taxi drivers stopped operating their cars for over an hour on a Saturday night to protest a spate of rock-throwing and racist behaviour that the drivers said had been directed at them for several years.

Murielle Jassinthe, the representative from the Nunavut Black History Society, gave her own example of racism in taxis. She said that she and a taxi driver were called a racial slur when she getting out of a taxi.

Jessica Young, a representative from the Government of Nunavut Justice Department, said that a public awareness campaign that profiles the lives of taxi drivers could help residents see the drivers not simply for the job that they do, but as people.

“It’s not a cab driver, it’s who that cab driver is,” Young said.

Both Jassinthe and Iqaluit Mayor Kenny Bell agreed with Young’s idea.

Jassinthe said having taxi drivers seen as community helpers would be beneficial while Bell said a public campaign could make the positive change the committee is looking for.

“People will start knowing each other instead of hating each other,” Bell said.

To prevent children and young adults from harassing taxi drivers, youth in Iqaluit need more positive programs to occupy them, said Mads Sandbakken, the representative from the Government of Nunavut’s Department of Family Services.

Without programs, whether they are online or playing recreational sports, children and young adults in Iqaluit have a lot of time to get involved in negative behaviour, he added.

“It’s a pretty quick road until you’re hanging around Northmart or meeting up with people that are not particularly healthy for young adults to have,” Sandbakken said.

Bell asked both Young and Sandbakken to bring more information forward at the next public safety committee meeting so that a motion can be adopted and put forward to city council.

Correction: This article has been updated from a previous version to correct the name of the Nunavut Black History Society.

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(31) Comments:

  1. Posted by Northener on

    Maybe if they started obeying the rules of the road like the rest of us they would be respected

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    • Posted by Really? on

      So that justifies being racists and violent towards them? What about the non cab drivers that don’t follow the rules of the road? Should we start hurling racists insults and rocks at them too?

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  2. Posted by Do like in the US on

    I was in a cab in Boston and there if you don’t pay a cab fare or threaten a cabbie it is an automatic minimum misdemeanor (summary offence). If these idiots were threatened with criminal records they would probably think twice about their actions. But, oh wait, were in Nunavut were nothing is illegal and child molestors get a slap on the wrist

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    • Posted by Uvanga on

      Go back to Boston unless you have solutions for the problems you just mentioned.

  3. Posted by John Kirby on

    Public awareness? Send them offenders onto the land so they can reclaim their lost heritage. Better yet give em a day pass. Or how about start charging some people for harassment, drunken threats, abusive behaviour etc. Na, were in Nunavut. LOL

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  4. Posted by Truestory on

    Maybe if the cab drivers were all Inuit. Like it was intended when the taxis started operating when Iqaluit was known as “Frobisher Bay” back then. Maybe the young generation will have more respect towards Inuit drivers. I’m not trying to be a racist, but, that was how it was intended. Most taxi drivers will not help with carrying anything heavy nowadays as long as they get their fare.

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    • Posted by truerstory on

      The taxi company hires pretty much anyone who is willing. I think most Inuit know there are better opportunities available to them.

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      • Posted by Truestory on

        I would rather Inuit be taxi drivers instead of non Inuit. Inuit cares about their fellow Inuits better. True that there are more better jobs than being a taxi driver for Inuit. But wouldn’t it be better for the passengers like the elderly that doesn’t speak english to be in an Inuk taxi driver. Bet you that Inuit would respect more passengers.

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        • Posted by U do on

          You’re welcome to lead the charge and become a taxi driver.
          On a side note, have fun when passengers you’ve known for years and relatives you hardly talk to ask if they can pay you next Friday or not at all or ask to borrow $20 from the cash you’ve earned that day.

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    • Posted by Really though on

      If you have a clean driving record anyone can get a job driving cab. Don’t think for a minute they are taking your jobs because they are not. They are here to earn a living doing a job no one local applies for.

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    • Posted by R U 4 Real?? on

      I just have to ask, when you say that it was “intended” for Inuit to be taxi drivers, is that in the NLCA or, where did you come up with that??

      I am serious perplexed at some of the bullshit people make up in these comments, do you really, truly believe at some level that the taxi driver jobs rightfully, by some cosmic justice, belong to Inuit? Are Inuit oppressed perhaps, and being robbed of their inherent right to drive cabs every time a non-Inuk takes the wheel of a cab?

      Unbelievable… you should be embarrassed for writing this

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  5. Posted by truer story on

    More drivers should be Inuit so people will be less racist toward them? What the heck?!? The younger generation should be taught to be tolerant and kind to people of all races, no?

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  6. Posted by Why on

    So when these newcomers are supposedly or are being harrassed, the city is seeking ways to help? Where have they been all this time for Inuit who are constantly being abused by outsiders/newcomers whether it is by an RCMP officer, finance manager or a Director in the GN? Wow!

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    • Posted by The Award for Microagression of the Day on

      Every time I hear someone use the word ‘newcomer’ to refer to their fellow citizens I turn off and don’t listen to anything else they have to say.

      People with such bigotry are not worth listening to.

      I wonder if Nunavut’s original inhabitants spoke so derisively of the Inuit when they rolled up?

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      • Posted by Some inuk on

        Newcomer applies to all localities in the world, move to a place and your considered new to the area right? Migrations among humans happen and they are still happening today. It’s a global thing that happens worldwide and people move. It’s a fact, it’s not a derogatory term. Unless you make into one.

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  7. Posted by Northern Guy on

    I’ve said it before on this forum and I will say it again. Iqaluit has a serious problem with race and racism that goes way beyond the way that cab drivers are treated. The issue with the cabbies is only the most recent the symptom, the underlying rot is far deeper and more pervasive. If Inuit were being racially abused in the same manner and frequency that I have personally witnessed for people of colour in this community, it would be national news.

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    • Posted by Northern Baffin on

      Racism breeds racism. I”m not profiling drivers, but have you not seen anything in the news in the last year? drivers talking to underage kids, drivers not being courteous, well, when you hear bad things about 1 or 2 drivers, people tend to associate it with all drivers, it is sad, but it should not be that way, when all drivers are painted with the same brush because of 1 or 2 bad drivers….
      same goes for the Inuit, inuit should not be painted with the same brush. just because words were thrown, its not the entire inuit population doing it. hurts, doesn’t it?

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      • Posted by Northern Guy on

        I am not talking about cab drivers. I am talking about people of colour routinely being called the N word by both adults and children as they leave the NorthMart and Ventures. I am talking about people of colour routinely being spit at either directly to their face or more often behind their back as they are walking away. I am talking about children of color routinely being called every nasty name under the sun on the playgrounds of all the local schools. I find it laughable that you equate this a few drivers who are unwilling to carry heavy bags for you.

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        • Posted by Some inuk on

          I don’t think your from here or grew up here. If you were you would know the children in this town don’t care what colour their friend is, as long as they play together. I grew up here in the 90s-00s and when this town really started having a influx of newcomers. There was some racism, but hearing things in the media out of context is what creates the confusion among the children. Hearing the n-word in songs and on movies, they believe it’s okay to say because they haven’t been informed of the repercussions of saying certain words. Any kid can say the f word without knowing what it means right.

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          • Posted by no sir on

            This isn’t about how things were here in the 90s of traditionally. This is about the reality of the the open racism that happens here right now. Knowing you and your friends played with everyone in the 80s and 90s is a lovely memory, but it doesn’t do anything for the kids and adults who are being called n***** and are having rocks thrown at them now.

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    • Posted by Uvanga on

      Inuit are opressed, have been, always will be, especially with the blinders the commentors have on. If you can only walk in our kamiks even for a day, you will then know what racism feels like. These taxi drivers are not all innocent. Because of what they hear from the non-inuits berating Inuit, they think then it’s ok to treat Inuit they way they do. Walk in our kamiks so you will then know what it feels like to be treated just because you are not white, just because you don’t look a certain way, then you can start “judging” Inuit then and understand why we react the way we do. I am not saying it’s ok to be racist, what I am saying is what comes around, comes around and we just say it like it is more loudly than these taxi drivers that subtly are racist towards us.

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  8. Posted by jn on

    I grew up in this mixed up town and this is the first time I have heard that Inuit were supposed to be cabbies first. It used to be that there were more Inuit cabbies in the past but better jobs came along and then alcohol that some were more than happy to pass around. Then more people came and started competing for all theses jobs and they had more education and training that are needed for most of the jobs that are available and the Inuit started getting pushed aside. Not all but most. We are now only slowly getting back the pride and that something inside humans that makes us want to be strong. Slowly but surely I have seen. It is not really visible because it seems like things are getting worse but not really. Most of us are not so overwhelmed anymore and making sure our descendants are getting educated. Hopefully sooner than later. And lessons always have to be learned. My piece.

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  9. Posted by Changes needed on

    There is no excuse or acceptable reason for abuse or racism directed at anyone including taxi drivers. That being said the taxi drivers have a image problem that opens them up to people’s disdain and anger, which is sometimes expressed in hateful racist ways, which again is completely unacceptable. In addition to what the city and government agencies are doing the drivers and owners need to start self policing to weed out the bad apples that are getting the drivers painted with the same brush. The aggressive drivers, the bootleggers, the drug dealers, cellphone talkers, the guys that offer young girls free rides for favours, these type of drivers are bringing down overall image and need to be removed from the roads. The owners need to show case the good that some drivers do, the extra effort that is take by some for elders and people needing extra help.

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    • Posted by Changes Needed, What Do You Think? on

      Dear Changes Needed – Would you agree with the statement below? No different than yours except that the word taxi drivers was replaced with Inuit.

      If such a generalized and bigoted statement as yours is considered acceptable (and it must be as NN hasn’t taken it down), then surely you would be comfortable with mine?

      However, if you find my statement below inaccurate and offensive, then you must realize how yours is the same.

      “There is no excuse or acceptable reason for abuse or racism directed at anyone including Inuit. That being said the Inuit have a image problem that opens them up to people’s disdain and anger, which is sometimes expressed in hateful racist ways, which again is completely unacceptable. In addition to what the city and government agencies are doing the Inuit need to start self policing to weed out the bad apples that are getting the Inuit painted with the same brush. The aggressive drivers, the bootleggers, the drug dealers, the guys that offer young girls free drugs for favours outside of NorthMart, these type of Inuit are bringing down overall image and need to be removed from the streets. The elders need to show case the good that some Inuit do, the extra effort that is take by some for elders and people needing extra help.”

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      • Posted by iThink on

        To “Changes Needed, What Do You Think?”

        There’s an important categorical difference between the terms you are using. To describe a ‘Cab driver’ is to point to an occupation with fluid barriers to entry. By contrast, ‘Inuit’ is a racial category that can not be entered or exited at will. These are not analogous terms you can swap out to make a point.

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        • Posted by Applies to Any Identifiable Group – Not Just Ethnic on

          You are correct, but the poster’s point is valid. Cab drivers are an identifiable group who are being stereotyped and ascribed (wrongly) group characteristics.

          Any group, not only ethnic or racial, can be stereotyped in a bigoted manner. That is what the original poster here did.

          It has no place, be it based on occupation or hair colour. The fact that most cab drivers in Iqaluit are POCs makes the broad stereotyping even more pernicious.

          You could replace cab driving with red heads, women, or the HIV positive, and it would be just as wrong.

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          • Posted by iThink on

            I take your point, and I might agree with you if the author hadn’t been so careful in disentangling the undesirable behaviors of a few from those of the larger group. Really, I don’t see any way of interpreting what has been said to imply any kind of sweeping generalization or the ascription of specific characteristics to ‘cab drivers’ as a group. If you can point something out I’d be interested to see it.

            On the other hand, I have some concern that you might be engaged in a little sophistry and a bad faith reading.

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      • Posted by Changes Needed on

        Now you may not believe this, but at no point did race come into my thought process when writing the above post. I’ve lived in the north for a long time and the bad apples in the taxi industry in Iqaluit are not limited to any race. All professions need to police themselves so they maintain a acceptable level of integrity or image in the public’s eye. I read your example, and I’m not comfortable with it because you are not comparing apples to apples. If you wanted to change taxi driver with lawyer, police officer, nurse, doctor, etc and list out the issues the minority of those groups are causing I would be okay with it. Not everything is related race.

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  10. Posted by Some inuk on

    What does it mean to be inuk?? Doesn’t it mean human? Inuit is a term we’ve collectively accepted as a name for ourselves collectively. But in reality doesn’t it mean all humans are Inuit by that definition? I am mixed race and have many mixed race Inuit family members. I have seen some racism and experienced it myself. But being from Iqaluit, you can’t just generalize the situation, you have to understand that maybe those kids were harassed previously by a cabbie or seen something where the cabbie was the bad guy. Or heard something similar and felt the need to lash out at the cabs. Think about it from the kids perspective. We already know the cabbies are not from here and it’s a well known thing among the people. It is one of the professions being outsourced by out of towners. The solution is to educate both the children and the cabbies on proper behaviour, if we can learn to wear masks all the time these days why not proper attitude and respect. It might sound hard but even kids are wearing masks all the time nowadays eh’

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  11. Posted by Drivers on

    How are Inuit without a vehicle supposed to get a driver’s license?

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    • Posted by Calm on

      You say that like it’s a barrier that’s unique to Inuit. That’s a question for many people. For example, in large cities, like Toronto, many families don’t have vehicles. If people want to learn to drive, they usually have to find someone who is willing to help. I was pretty poor, so I had to save and pay someone and rent a car to practice. It would be an interesting private business for someone to start. If it’s of concern to Inuit orgs, perhaps they would provide grants to pay for the lessons.

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