‘Bored’ kids responsible for throwing rocks at taxis, Iqaluit mayor says

City needs to tackle boredom and to have ‘serious conversation’ about racism, Mayor Kenny Bell says after weekend incidents

Iqaluit taxi drivers parked their vehicles Saturday night to protest what they describe is harassment and racism they face doing their jobs. (Photo by Bill Williams)

By David Lochead and Corey Larocque

Updated at 5:45 p.m.

Boredom among some Iqaluit kids younger than 12 is responsible for incidents of rock-throwing at taxi drivers that prompted cabbies to stop driving for a few hours Saturday night, Mayor Kenny Bell says.

Bell called a meeting for Monday afternoon with representatives from the city, RCMP, Justice Department, taxi companies and drivers to figure out how to keep cabbies safe on the job.

While taxi drivers alleged the incidents are racially motivated, Bell said he didn’t think any particular driver was targeted. But, the mayor acknowledged, his community needs to have a “serious conversation” about racism.

“I think it’s kids just being bored,” Bell said in an interview after the meeting. “Bored and out there doing dumb stuff.”

Rocks being thrown at taxis is not a new thing in Nunavut’s capital in recent years, as the increasingly diverse city has seen an influx of Black residents. Many of the city’s taxi drivers are people of colour. Getting parents to talk to their kids about racism and about the dangers or throwing rocks is one of the steps the city and RCMP will take as a result of Monday’s meeting, Bell said.

On Saturday, six taxi drivers reported the rock-throwing incidents — which resulted in three cracked windshields — to city bylaw enforcement and to the police. Municipal enforcement considered it mischief, which is a police matter, but RCMP had other calls on the go at the same time.

Caribou Tuktu Cabs owner Danny Savard said RCMP were contacted repeatedly but only responded to half the calls. The RCMP did not respond to a request to comment from Nunatsiaq News.

The perceived lack of response prompted the cabbies to park their cars in protest of what the drivers say are violence and racism they face doing their jobs. It forced business, including bars to temporarily shut down.

“It was just a boiling point were drivers felt they weren’t being heard,” Bell said.
On Monday, Daniel Frezghi, a driver with Caribou Tuktu Cabs, told Nunatsiaq News he joined the protest because his own windshield was broken last year from rock-throwing.

Daniel Frezhi, a taxi driver, said he has had a wine bottle thrown at his car. He was among the cabbies who walked off the job Saturday after a rash of rock-throwing incidents. (Photo credit David Lochead)

Taxi drivers who own their own vehicles have to pay for damage like this. Frezghi said the broken windshield cost him $1,500.

“That’s my car, I have to repair it,” Frezghi said, adding that mechanics are expensive in Iqaluit and it can take three weeks for parts to be shipped.

Beyond rocks, Frezghi said that he has had a wine bottle thrown at this car before.

Frezghi said the road along NorthMart and the area around DJ’s Specialties Convenience Store are some of the worst areas for getting hit with rocks. It was rock throwing in those neighbourhoods, paired with little response from RCMP, that motivated the taxi drivers to strike Saturday, he added.

The mayor said part of the solution is to find young people something to do, while protecting taxi drivers on the job, as well as their customers.

Police and city officials plan to visit some homes identified by the taxi drivers to talk to parents about the importance of safety and respect.

“We don’t want to go in with an enforcement mind. We have to go in with a helping mindset,” Bell said.

They’ll consider going into schools to educate students, tagging along with fire prevention officers, who already have programs aimed at school-aged children.

There will be an update on the situation at the Oct. 4 meeting of the city’s public safety committee, said Bell, who is the chairperson of the recently formed committee.

The community needs to make children feel valued, the mayor said.

“Some of the kids think that they are not wanted, not supported.”

At the same time, parents have a responsibility to teach their kids about racism.

“We have to have a serious conversation and move past the name-calling. I’m asking parents to talk to their kids about throwing rocks.”

Bell said taxi drivers deserve a safe working environment and they are an important part of the transportation network, especially in a city without public transit.

“We need them on the road,” the mayor said.

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(17) Comments:

  1. Posted by Honk on

    He also said the protest was co-ordinated by the drivers themselves.

    “The drivers are the ones on the front line, they’re the ones getting the rocks, they’re the ones getting the insults and the racist insults thrown at them,” Savard said, adding the harassment has been ongoing for around two to three years.

    So what has Savard done for these drivers. He’s a rich man. He could have pulled them off the road and compensated them for their lost wages. They were left with no choice but to organize themselves and take a loss. The owner of the company they work for should have made that call at his own expense.

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  2. Posted by Oscare on

    Nunavut must be the only jurisdiction in the entire planet where the bars shut down when the cabs are not running. Now you tell me, does Nunavut live in the real world or what? Do you see the City of Yellowknife or the Town of Inuvik bars shutting down when the taxi’s are not running….. NO they stay open. Pretty soon, they will shut down all businesses in Iqaluit if taxi’s are not running. Talk about the GN and or City of Iqaluit being babysitters? Whatta joke

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    • Posted by Two Feet and a Heatbeat on

      The reliance of people in Iqaluit on taxis is ridiculous. It’s like nobody ever learned how to walk. When I was 12 years old, I’d walk well over 2km to and from school everyday (uphill both ways of course, lol). A few years ago I remember a big kerfuffle because kids needed to be picked up by the bus from 4 corners to go to the elementary school. That’s 500 metres down one street.
      .
      And it must continue into adulthood, because I know there are many people that take a taxi to go 1km to the NorthMart, buy their 2 or 3 bags of groceries, and then take a taxi home. Take a taxi to go 1km to the bar, take a taxi home. It’s absurd.

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  3. Posted by Make Iqaluit Great Again on

    We can all breathe a sigh of relief knowing that Mayor Bell will be meeting with the cab drivers. We know that our Mayor the wizard will solve this problem effortlessly!!

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    • Posted by Make Iqaluit Great Again 2 on

      The centre of Iqaluit is a war zone. All the drunks and druggy zombies staggering or passed out in front of stores. All the fights. The thieving and vandalism. We shouldn’t be surprised kids are acting out. Too many kids aren’t safe at home because their parents are drinking. Violence begets violence. It’s crazytown.

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  4. Posted by ninny on

    teachers should be kept here over the summer so the kids dont get bored if they in scholl they not throw rocks

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    • Posted by Outsourcing on

      Or, maybe you know, parents should parent rather than outsourcing it to the schools. Just sayin’, you know?

  5. Posted by Honk on

    It’s not that the kids are bored. They aren’t cared for. They have homes, perhaps, but no adult cares to know where they are or what they’re doing. They will shout “I love you!” loudly in public for people to hear, but then they ignore the crap out of them and don’t bother engaging them or putting effort into them.

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    • Posted by George on

      The “kids are bored” argument is bogus, as you point out. How about 1) go to school. 2) do homework. 3) do chores around the house. 4) get involved with hobbies/sports 5) get 8 or 10 hours of sleep.

      That all takes parental involvement and parents who set a good example. Not happening very much anywhere in Nunavut.

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  6. Posted by Reality on

    ““We don’t want to go in with an enforcement mind. We have to go in with a helping mindset,” Bell said.”

    I think this approach has been tried for a few decades now. It’s not working. A little enforcement is exactly what the kids are crying out for, and their parents, too. School, homework, bedtime. It works everywhere else, it could work in Nunavut too.

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  7. Posted by Uvanga on

    I wonder when they will start the buses again? I remember when we could ride on the bus all day for $5 for adults and $2 for the kids, the kids would enjoy that.
    This may be a break for the kids, finally the city is being forced to see the plight of the neglected children, and its sad that it has to take for the taxi drivers to stop for a few hours to point out that the kids are being neglected. The City has known this for a few years but has never corrected it. The summer camps are for the privileged, while the neglected kids are being overlooked. How about over night summer camps out on the land for them? This would give an opportunity to teach them right from wrong and about racism as well… I am sure there are other ideas.

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    • Posted by John K on

      They would need to actually attend school to be assigned homework.

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  8. Posted by If the kids want to make dents, the taxi drivers can make real dents! on

    Anyone disrespecting the taxi drivers, who are the real unsung heroes in Iqaluit, must be punished. The taxis protested for a few hours, which resulted in several businesses closing for the remainder of the day due to no staff and no customers! If they want to make a real dent in Iqaluit, they should protest for several days.

    This rock throwing sh*t has to stop; it isn’t kids being bored, I’m sure they have tons to do. They are just craving attention because their parents likely neglect them. Iqaluit has more to do than any other town in Nunavut so anyone who buys the mayor’s excuse isn’t thinking critically. Make these kids pay for the damage by doing labour, so they know what its like to earn a honest day’s work (I’m sure their parents haven’t worked a day in their lives). Make them shovel snow for $5 an hour until the new windshield is paid off. Down south, you do this type of damage, you’re looking at likely 50 or 100 hours of Community Service… Picking up garbage or cleaning/fixing vandalized property. That is what Iqaluit needs. If they say they’re bored, make em work. Otherwise, the erratic behaviour will continue escalating and they’ll soon be 18 and jail will become their forever second home.

    Read the comments on Facebook its mostly people complaining that it is French and Black drivers (racism is not acceptable, ever) and often those making these racist accusations are often GN/City employees. Be it known that anyone who makes those types of comments online down south is usually fired, but for some reason it remains acceptable in the north. Not happy about the race of the drivers? Try working as a cabbie. The City would benefit from having more Inuk drivers! Don’t like the long hours, rude customers and erratic behaviour from drunks? Didnt think so.

    Next time, I say protest for a day or a week. Show Iqaluit who really runs this town and show Iqaluit what life would be like without this valuable service.

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  9. Posted by “Bored” kids on

    Another oversimplification by Mr Mayor, proving yet again he doesn’t pit much thought into complex issues.

    These “bored” kids are targeting cabs by proxy of their parents/community who say racist and ignorant things towards cab drivers while children are present. The kids won’t be punished because mom or dad will probably be proid of them.

    The us vs them attitude in this town won’t be solved in this generation.

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  10. Posted by Not Impressed on

    Crazy what you have to do to get a meeting with the Mayor these days.

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  11. Posted by Ian on

    Mayor Bell, hang in there darned if you do, darned if you don’t , at least you are trying Nunavut is going through this in different ways everywhere, lawlessness, and it’s going to continue go to any high school in Nunavut, and see how many students are there this morning,society here is breaking down, and will take a few generations to maybe bring it back.but the blame game is here to stay.gov has to take the blame and fix it attitude.keep trying

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