Former Winnipeg cab driver accused of forcible confinement, assault interesting metropolis’s licence removing

A former Winnipeg taxi driver who was accused of forcible confinement and assault is trying to get his cab licence back from the city.

At a vehicles for hire appeal board on Friday, city staff described Amit Kumar’s behaviour as a cab driver as “aggressive” and “troubling.”

Kumar, who drove for Unicity since 2009, had his taxi driver’s licence taken away in November after an incident on Sept. 26, 2021.

A 19-year-old First Nations woman who was a passenger in a taxi that night said the driver assaulted her and locked her in his cab. When she tried to get out, she says the driver drove on, dragging her for a short distance.

At the time, Unicity said the driver was the one who was attacked.

Winnipeg police charged the driver with forcible confinement and assault, but those charges have been stayed.

In the appeals board meeting Friday, the co-ordinator of Winnipeg’s vehicles for hire enforcement investigations said footage from inside the cab that night corroborated the passenger’s story.

Mike Scharikow said his team then reviewed 260 hours of additional footage from Kumar’s cab, and found he had violated the city’s Vehicles for Hire bylaw several times.

“These violations range from threatening passengers, asking them for prepayment without a reason to do so, and not having the meter engaged while providing service,” said Scharikow.

“Mr. Kumar’s actions on Sept. 26, in addition to the actions found in the additional footage, displays a pattern of troubling and aggressive treatment of passengers and further supports the decision handed down.”

The board privately viewed some of that footage for more than two hours on Friday.

The vehicles for hire department’s November ruling says Kumar cannot reapply for a cab licence in Winnipeg, nor for any other public transportation licence, for five years, unless he meets specific conditions.

He can reapply in three years if he meets those conditions, which include anti-bias training through the Manitoba Human Rights Commission and situation de-escalation or conflict resolution training.

He’d also have to complete training related to truth and reconciliation, missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and Indigenous peoples, the decision says.

At its meeting Friday, the appeals board decided to adjourn the hearing until June.

New fines not applicable

City council recently approved $250 fines for taxi, limo and ride-hail drivers who sexually harass, insult abuse or threaten a passenger.

The city’s vehicles for hire manager, Grant Heather, said the September iincident happened before the fines came into effect, so they can’t be applied to this driver.

“These new fines are an enforcement tool. They are not the starting point or the ending point necessarily. They are just another tool,” Heather said in an interview.

“They’re not the only outcome. They may be in some cases when appropriate, but they don’t necessarily have to be.”

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