Amir Javaheri in his taxi. He said that rock throwing and unruly customers are consistent problems, but at 76, he still enjoys working as a taxi driver. (Photo by David Lochead)

Taxi driver loves Iqaluit. Rock throwers? Not so much

Caribou Tuktu Cabs administrator says vehicles targeted 3 to 4 times per week between spring and fall

By David Lochead

Amir Javaheri was driving his taxi at around 11 p.m. when he heard a loud sound from the passenger seat window.

“I look, I see the hole in the window, and then I see the kids running behind Northmart,” he said of the incident, which occurred in 2011.

“I drove [my passenger] home and said, ‘OK, that’s it for me tonight.'”

Javaheri, 76, has been driving cabs in Iqaluit for the past 15 years, and said people have been throwing rocks at him and his colleagues the entire time he’s worked in the city.

In fact, Caribou Tuktu taxi drivers experience about three or four rock-throwing incidents per week between spring and fall, according to company administrator Ronnie McGregor.

Javaheri speculates it happens more often this time of year because schools are closed, and kids get bored.

Last week, Nunatsiaq News rode along with Javaheri in his cab. He talked about the violence he sometimes faces, why he stays in the business despite the challenges, and what he believes the city can do to make it safer for drivers.

The ride started on a warm June 3 night with a passenger en route to Apex. After that, a steadier stream of customers got rides to and from the Chartroom, one of the bars in Iqaluit.

“Everybody’s going to the Chartroom,” Javaheri said at one point during the evening, to the delight of one of the three passengers in the back.

Originally from Iran, Javaheri moved to Canada in 1986, where he now has a wife and two grown children. He lived in Montreal until 2003, then moved to Gatineau where he owned and operated a Super Saver franchise.

He abandoned that venture in 2007 when the recession hit, and moved to Iqaluit.

Javaheri said he initially planned to stop in Iqaluit for only a year, but found himself loving the community and so he stayed.

He said he enjoys going onto the land and tries to hike every Sunday.

“I love the geography here,” Javaheri said.

Being a taxi driver, he has also built connections with many of the residents in Iqaluit. Some people don’t believe he is 76, he jokes.

“I don’t know all the names, but I know almost everyone, honestly,” Javaheri said.

Cab drivers in Iqaluit have become more vocal lately about the violence they experience out on the road. One Saturday night last September, a group of drivers protested by parking their taxis near Northmart for more than an hour.

In late May, the City of Iqaluit got involved after hearing renewed complaints from drivers. It issued a public service announcement encouraging the public to refrain from throwing rocks, saying it’s dangerous to people and destructive to property.

Currently, said Javaheri, most of the rock throwing occurs in the area between Northmart and DJ’s Specialty Convenience Store.

“Every year,” he said, this area is the hot spot for rock throwing.

People have broken windows in Javaheri’s cab twice. Since he owns his car, he had to pay for the damage, which came in at around $1,000 each time.

He said he called the RCMP and while officers talked to the children, the rock-throwing did not stop.

This year, RCMP have had 22 documented incidents involving cab drivers, said spokesperson Cpl. Tammy Keller. She added the RCMP do not have statistics on violence against cab drivers.

At a public safety meeting last fall, Nunavut Family Services representative Mads Sandbakken said youth find themselves targeting cab drivers because there isn’t enough to keep them busy.

“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 [be around],” he said.

On top of rock throwing, Javaheri said he has to deal with drunk and unruly customers often. At least once a shift, there will be someone who does not have the money to pay for a ride.

He said when drunk passengers try to get a ride with him without having the money to pay, he tells them he will call the police. If that doesn’t work, telling them he will drive them to the RCMP headquarters usually does.

But sometimes, drunk passengers do damage.

One time, Javaheri said, a passenger pushed his passenger side door so far forward that it caused a dent in his car. This was after the passenger was told to leave the vehicle because he didn’t have any money.

Javaheri said a possible solution is for the city to enact a bylaw to make it mandatory for passengers to pay up front. Taxi drivers already have this option, but when a driver knows the person who may not be able to pay for the ride, it can be awkward to ask for prepayment.

Despite the challenges, Javaheri said he largely remains happy with what he’s doing, as it keeps him busy.

“I love driving, I love interacting with people,” he said of why he is still working.

“I’m happy, I’m healthy … why not?”

 

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(11) Comments:

  1. Posted by Strike on

    Taxis should go off the road for 24-48 hours after every incident. Iqaluit will not survive without taxis. Taxi driver is not a job that you should expect to maybe die from a rock assault. Yet people still wonder why there are no inuit cab drivers?

    Sad to see the mayor blame boredom for throwing rocks. Kids in iqaluit have more services to do than just about anywhere else in the north, so that is a blatant lie.

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    • Posted by Curious on

      If you say the kids have lots to do, why are they throwing rocks?

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      • Posted by Why on

        This type of behavior is usually for attention and a cry for help. Chances are they are neglected at home and would rather cause trouble than play like normal kids

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      • Posted by Thomas Shelby on

        They are throwing rocks because their parents never taught them NOT to throw rocks at cars. It wasn’t long ago there was a kid throwing chunks of ice at cars by the out patients of the Hospital. Parents need to teach their kids what to do and not to do. Its the same as kids playing on the road, its insane the amount of kids playing on busy roads here in Iqaluit. Why aren’t they taught not to? We as motorists need to be vigilant and watch all the time but eventually something will happen and then it will be the driver’s fault no matter what. Everyone will crucify the driver and will never blame the real culprit, the parents.

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  2. Posted by The Old Trapper on

    An incident from 11 years ago is not exactly “NEWS”. Perhaps the taxi company could have drivers log rock throwing incidents for a month to see if this is still a problem, and the size of the issue.
    .
    As far as holding people responsible, I know that during my youth parents were held responsible fot the action of their minor children. Is there any reason why this would not still be the case?

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    • Posted by Amy on

      The article is clear that it currently happens to Tuktu Cabs 3-4 times a week. That definitely qualifies as still being a problem — and a significant one at that.

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  3. Posted by It’s unfortunate on

    That the root of this problem never gets spoken of.

    Do you ever find it funny —like haha ha, when you ask the question where are all the Inuit cab drivers?

    Maybe not in Javaheri’s case, but we do know the amenities non-Inuk taxi drivers take-in while working in Iqaluit, right?

    The allowances, the housing … the same story over and over again; yet here’s an industry that no other person but Inuit would be perfect for—they know not only the land but the city ; and to quallunaat who also push back with “those southerners get the jobs because they’ve went to school for many years and have that technical knowledge “… can you really use that line here?

    Please, somebody at nunatsiaq , actually write about the issues and views which 85% of the population of NU have and have a right for the only credible news agency to represent the truth and not only skim the snow-dusted surface of issues that are fractured with always this same root

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    • Posted by Thomas Shelby on

      Inuks have all the opportunities in the world up here, so many programs and allowances given to them it’s too much in my opinion, yet there are still only 57% working in the GN, I wonder why! We all know why and we all know why there are no Inuk taxi drivers too.

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    • Posted by Jack Finlay on

      GET YOUR FACT RIGHT !!!!

      One of the reason that Inuk don’t drive a cab is because they don’t make money by travelling their family all over town for free so they don’t make money and it is hard to say no to your family.

      For the allowance and housing, CAB DRIVER DONT RECEIVED NOTHING FREE
      – NO ALLOWANCE
      – They have to pay for their rent/apartment, food, cable, power, … NOTHING FREE
      – If they come from South, they have to pay their flight ticket also.

      To became a TAXI DRIVER
      – JUST NEED TO BE ABLE TO READ AND WRITE ENGLISH
      – NO CRIMINAL RECORD
      – A CLASS 4 DRIVER AND THATS IT.

      So just go take your license CLASS 4, your criminal record check and pass the exam at bylaw and you will work for any taxi company in town.

      You don’t need to see any job advertising, just go with your pocket number to see the taxi company and you will start quite fast, always need driver.

  4. Posted by Grateful on

    Thank you, Amir, for sharing your perspective and providing a much needed service!

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  5. Posted by Seriously on

    Those kids are not bored and not looking for attention, they are just like the ones in lord of the flies. no guidance no discipline no conscience.
    It has been happening for a very long time, rcmp, city and news never bothered with it before. Maybe when one of those big rocks flies through an open window, hits a customer in the head causing serious injury or death , and so happens the customer is Inuit then all hell will break loose.
    Taxi drivers do not get any subsidies from the government. ONLY Inuit people get all those freebies. Some companies here offer housing for non Inuit people because they CANNOT find local people to work, so they have to encourage “Southerners” to comes work here.
    Call a spade a spade folks.

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