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Iqaluit town council cleaning up taxi bylaw

Iqaluit Town Council wants prospective taxi drivers to complete a criminal record check before they’re given taxi permits.

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

MICHAELA RODRIGUE
Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT — Iqaluit’s taxi drivers may soon have to prove their innocence before stepping behind the wheel.

Iqaluit town bylaw officers have drafted a new taxi bylaw that would clamp down on criminal cab drivers.

If approved, the draft bylaw would force all cab drivers to complete a criminal record check before they get their taxi permit.

Right now cab drivers must submit to a criminal background check to rule out certain recent criminal offences.

But sometimes the process can take up to six months. When that happens, and the applicant signs an affidavit swearing their innocence, and town officials do not withhold the permit while they continue their check.

The process raised the ire of town councillor Doug Lem who said “in theory we could have a rapist on the prowl.”

That could all change if town council passes a draft taxi bylaw.

The draft bylaw would force any permit applicant who may have a criminal record to bring a copy of their record to local bylaw officers, said Iqaluit bylaw officer John Tagak.

Tagak, or another bylaw officer, could then check the record to see if any convictions bar the applicant from obtaining a permit.

Applicants can obtain their criminal records from the local RCMP in a matter of days.

Right now, any applicant suspected of having a criminal record must undergo a fingerprint check. That check may take as long as six months. During that time a taxi permit cannot be withheld.

But under the new system, a potential cabby who contests their copy of the criminal record and wants a full fingerprint check completed, cannot have a permit until the process is finished.

The new system would speed up the process, Tagak said. And would cut down on the number of permits that are revoked after a drivers criminal record is revealed.

The draft bylaw is scheduled to go before a Town council committee. Council is soliciting input from taxi cab operators and drivers.

One local cab operator said he’s for the proposed changes.

“I don’t want to see rapers driving taxis. By finding them before they even drive a taxi it makes more sense,” said Stephane Montpetit, co-owner of Pai-Pa Taxi Ltd.

“If it (the check) can be done in less than four or five days, I’m happy,” Montpetit said.

But, Montpetit wants other changes made to Iqaluit’s taxi bylaw. He wants a cap put onto the number of cabs allowed and he says the town should have a taxi commission to review the entire bylaw.

Still, he said he wants council to move ahead on the criminal background check amendment.

The draft bylaw will also update some of the language in the current taxi bylaw. For example, the new bylaw would refer to the Controlled Drug and Substances Act instead of the Narcotic Control Act. And it would refer to the Motor Vehicle Act instead of the Highway Traffic Act.

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