A former Winnipeg taxi driver charged with forcible confinement and assault is trying to get his city taxi license back.
At a vehicle hire appeal board on Friday, city staff described Amit Kumar’s behavior as a taxi driver as “aggressive” and “disturbing”.
Kumar, who had been driving for Unicity since 2009, had his taxi driver’s license removed in November after an incident on September 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 taxi. When she tried to get out, she says the driver continued, dragging her a short distance.
At the time, Unicity said the driver was the one attacked.
Winnipeg police charged the driver with forcible confinement and assault, but those charges were stayed.
At the appeal board meeting on Friday, the Winnipeg Rental Vehicle Investigations Coordinator said footage from inside the taxi that night corroborated the passenger’s story.
Mike Scharikow said his team then reviewed an additional 260 hours of footage from Kumar’s taxi and found that he had repeatedly violated the city’s vehicle-for-hire bylaw.
“These violations range from threatening passengers, asking them for prepayment without reason to do so, and not having the meter activated while the service is being delivered,” Scharikow said.
“Mr. Kumar’s actions on September 26, in addition to the actions found in the additional footage, show a disturbing and aggressive pattern of treatment of passengers and further support the decision rendered.”
The board privately viewed some of that footage for more than two hours on Friday.
The Rental Vehicle Department’s November ruling says Kumar cannot reapply for a Winnipeg taxi license, or any other public transportation license, 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 training in de-escalation or conflict resolution.
He should also undergo training on truth and reconciliation, missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and Indigenous peoples, the ruling says.
At its meeting on Friday, the appeal board decided to adjourn the hearing until June.
New fines not applicable
City Council recently approved fines of $250 for taxi, limo and rideshare drivers who sexually harass, insult or threaten a passenger.
The city’s director of rental vehicles, Grant Heather, said the September incident happened before the fines took effect, so they cannot be applied to this driver.
“These new fines are an enforcement tool. They’re not necessarily the starting point or the end point. They’re just another tool,” Heather said in an interview.
“They’re not the only outcome. They can be in some cases, if need be, but they don’t have to be.”