Background checks promised after taxi drivers accused of sexual assault
The provincial government and the city of Montreal are promising to take action after receiving a number of complaints from women who said they were sexually assaulted by taxi drivers.
Both levels of government said they will make enforcing criminal background checks for taxi drivers a priority.
There's a law in place that says "no person may obtain, maintain, or renew a taxi driver's permit if the person has been convicted in the last five years of an indictable or criminal offence," but there is no province-wide standard for background checks in place so the law isn't being enforced.
In fact many years ago the provincial government off-loaded responsibility for taxis onto local municipalities, and Montreal has its own Taxi Bureau responsible for inspecting taxis and issuing permits.
Quebec's Transport Minister Robert Poeit is laying some of the blame on the previous Parti Quebecois government.
"I was very surprised that in the last two years no one was working on that," said Poeti.
Out of 11,000 taxi drivers in Montreal, only 3,000 have had background checks. Poeti says it's time to change that.
"We are going to resolve that problem as soon as possible if, by the law, you should not have a criminal record and you have one and you're still driving a taxi cab," said Poeti.
Mayor Denis Coderre says background checks would fit into his plan to overhaul Montreal's taxi industry.
That could include having cameras in taxis to make sure drivers are safe because sometimes it's the clients causing trouble.
The Montreal Taxi Bureau says it is waiting for clear guidelines from the province about how to implement the checks and what specific offences would prevent someone from getting a permit.