2016 is ending and we can collectively agree it’s been a shitty year. Cops are spying on journalists, our Prime Minister has turned his back on the young people who elected him, comedians are being punished for their jokes, and icons from Prince to Bowie to Muhammad Ali to Carrie Fisher have left us. In the legal world it’s been an ongoing ugly parade and with the year FINALLY coming to an end, it’s time for a recap of some of the major legal issues affecting us this past year.

Syrian Refugee Crisis

The ongoing crisis in Aleppo has led to tons of refugees fleeing Syria. Unlike the US where debates regarding the refugee crisis were fraught with concerns about terrorism and an emphasis on keeping victims of Aleppo out, the Trudeau government took the moral high ground and pledged to welcome twenty-five thousand Syrian refugees. The Canadian government ended up going above and beyond this pledge and have thus far taken in thirty-eight thousand seven hundred and thirteen Syrian refugees.

Trans-Pacific Partnership

On February 3, 2016, Federal Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement on Canada’s behalf. Canada’s participation in the treaty was negotiated by the Harper government before its colossal defeat by the Liberals in 2015. Whether Parliament ratifies the agreement thus legally binding Canada remains to be seen.

Uber Crisis

Montreal taxi protest (photo Chris Zacchia)

Quebec cities were rife with cab drivers protesting Uber, a car service that is not bound by the ridiculous and expensive rules that must be obeyed by taxi drivers and company owners that specify everything from pricing and car specs to what the driver wears. In September 2016 Uber made a deal with the Quebec government which included Uber acquiring 300 taxi permits and obliging drivers to get a class 4C license and insurance. With the cab industry in Montreal already flooded, it remains to be seen whether this tentative deal will create peace between taxi companies and Uber.

Panama Papers

In April 2016 the decryption of the Panama Papers revealed the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca to have helped many of the world’s wealthiest people hide their assets from governments. Those named included terrorists, CEOs, politicians, and athletes. Canadian tycoon and political wannabe Kevin O’Leary is dismissive of the papers, possibly because he too is hiding wealth from Canadian taxpayers for his own benefit.

Anti-Vaxxers and Naturopathic Remedies

David and Collet Stephan were convicted of failing to provide the necessaries of life for failing to get their son medical attention for bacterial meningitis. As the Stephans are anti-vaxxers distrustful of modern medicine, their 19-month old boy Ezekiel was instead treated with echinacea, garlic, onions, hot peppers and horseradish. By the time he was brought to a hospital it was too late and the boy died. David Stephan has since been sentenced to 4 months in prison while Collet to 3 months of house arrest. They have been ordered to bring their kids to a medical doctor once a year and a nurse every 3 months.

OQLF

Quebec Culture Minister Hélène David announced modifications to Quebec language laws that would force businesses with trademarked non-French names to add French to their signs. Though the proposal is clearly in retaliation for the government’s legal defeat against Best Buy in 2014, it remains to be seen whether the changes will go through in a province exhausted and fed up with language and cultural debates.

Ghomeshi Verdict

In May 2016 former CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi signed a peace bond to settle a sexual assault trial. Though for many this is a slap on the wrist, his former victim Kathryn Borel celebrated the bond as a public acknowledgment of Ghomeshi’s guilt. The 12 month long bond guarantees Ghomeshi will go to prison should he violate its terms and does not limit the prosecution from going after him for other sexual assaults.

Mike Ward

Mike Ward (photo Cem Ertekin)

In July 2016 Montreal Comedian Mike Ward was ordered to pay $42 000 to a disabled kid and his mother for making fun of him in one of his jokes. The verdict, which Ward has sworn to appeal, has turned the Quebec Human Rights Commission from a means of social justice to one of censorship. No one has questioned why the kid went after Ward and not the bullies who used his joke to hurt him, but it’s likely due to Ward’s celebrity status and wealth.

Pitbull Ban

Following the death of a Pointe-Aux-Trembles woman after she was mauled by a dog, the City of Montreal has adopted a ban on dangerous breeds. The ban is hugely unpopular and has resulted in protests, the latest being the SPCA’s refusal to take in dogs following the Quebec Court of Appeal’s reinstatement of the ban after the Superior Court overturned it.

STM Fines

On September 7, 2016 the Municipal Court of Montreal ruled that fines given by STM rent-a-cops to people unable to produce their transfer is unconstitutional. The STM has vowed to appeal the decision.

Judge Robin Camp

In November 2016, Judge Robin Camp was recommended for removal from the bench by the Canadian Judicial Council following an inquiry into his conduct during a rape trial. Though the judge promised to reform, his behavior demonstrated such contempt for victims of sexual assault the Council ruled no amount of sensitivity training would repair his damage to the judiciary’s reputation.

Seafood and Civil Liability

In May 2016 Simon-Pierre Canuel ingested salmon at a bistro in Sherbrooke sending him into anaphylactic shock. He is now suing the restaurant and waiters for $415,000 though his negligence regarding his food allergy and rumours that he has tried to scam restaurants in the past make it unlikely he will get the full amount.

This past year has been full of legal debates that are as fascinating as they are numerous and outrageous. For every dispute brought before courts and councils we come closer to what we all strive for: a just society.

In 2017, let’s aim for just that.

Taxi and Uber drivers are at war.

Montreal taxi drivers are fed up with Uber stealing their business. Uber drivers are fed up with the barrage of blockades, eggings, protests and insults being hurled their way.

Those who favor Uber consider it an affordable alternative to the heavily regulated and costly taxi system. Those against Uber claim that it’s promoting itself as a ride-sharing service and therefore exempt from government regulation and taxes. They claim that Uber is taking money from people who paid their dues taking government courses and paying outrageous fees to operate as taxi drivers in their respective cities.

The critics of Uber are absolutely right.

If you go to Uber’s website, they don’t call themselves a taxi service. The motto for people who want to become drivers is:

“Work that puts you first; drive when you want, earn what you need.”

It promotes itself as a network of independent contractors in which people who need a ride are connected with drivers – the contractors. All the driver needs is a car, driver’s license, smartphone and the UberPartner app, which you can download for free from the Google Play store or from iTunes. Once you’ve got the app, you have to register on their website, which means you provide your name, contact info, and proof you are legally allowed to drive a car in your area: license, registration, and proof of insurance. The only security check Uber requires is a standard background check.

Once you’re signed up, all you need to do is stick the Uber sticker to your car identifying you as one of their drivers, turn on the app and Uber will not only hook you up with riders, but also provide you with directions. It’s up to the rider whether to take a chance and pay for a lift from you, and riders can share their experiences by rating you on Uber’s website. Payments to drivers are made via the Uber app, which deposits the money directly into their bank accounts.

Having said all that, becoming an Uber driver is insultingly easy and cheap when you look at all the hoops, both financial and regulatory, that taxi drivers have to go through just to be able to work in Montreal.

Taxi drivers in Montreal are regulated by the City of Montreal’s By-law Concerning Taxi Transportation, Quebec’s Act Respecting Transportation Services by Taxi, and rules set out by the Societé de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ).

In order to become a taxi driver in Montreal, you need more than a valid driver’s license, a car, and a background check.

A lot more.

taxi
Photo by Iana Kazakova

First off, you need to be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident. You need to have a class 4C driver’s permit issued by the SAAQ, and that means taking a 150-hour training course and passing a test on taxi transportation regulations. You need to be able to speak, read, and understand French and English enough to do the job.

The vehicle you use has to be a sedan or a station wagon and the model can’t be more than ten years old. The car has to have a hardtop and four side doors and glass sides. If you want to drive a van equipped to carry a maximum of nine people, it has to have a running board and three or four side doors with a window each, and the net mass of all in the vehicle has to be less than 3500 kg. If you just got your taxi permit, your vehicle can’t be more than five years old, and no taxi can have an exterior surface damaged by wear and tear.

Taxi laws require drivers to adhere to a strict set of rules regarding their conduct. There are so many this article will only point out the major ones.

Taxi drivers are required by law to keep the taxi clean, inside and out. The driver has to make sure that customers can open the doors of the cab at all times and can’t take on more than one passenger without the customer’s consent. Drivers can’t have animals in the car with the exception of those the customer needs to compensate for a disability. Drivers are also required to drive safe, be courteous, act with dignity and civility, and provide the customer with a proper level of comfort.

The only time a taxi driver is allowed to refuse service is if the customer is with an animal other than one required by their disability, the customer seems drunk or on drugs, seems to require immediate medical care, the customer’s stuff won’t fit in the trunk, he or she can’t pay the fare, or the driver has reason to believe that his or her safety would be compromised. The driver also has to provide receipts upon request. Recent changes to taxi laws have even imposed a dress code of dark pants and white shirts for cabbies, with exceptions for warmer months when they can wear shorts.

The main source of the outrage for Montreal cabbies is one of cost. Taxi permits can cost up to $200 000 and many cabbies have to get loans to pay for them, which adds interest and taxes to the mix. Fares are regulated by the government, and the extensive maintenance and cleanliness rules jack the price of driving a cab even higher. Montreal’s bylaws also have strict specifications about the dome lights and fixtures all taxis must have right down to the colour and material they’re made of. Cabbies who don’t obey the laws can have their license taken away…

But until the laws are changed, Montreal cabbies can take comfort in the fact that if they lose their taxi license they can always work for Uber.

* Featured image by Chris Zacchia

Panelists Katie Nelson, Enzo Sabbagha and Jerry Gabriel discuss the feud between taxi drivers and Uber, the Canadian Parliament voting to condemn the BDS movement and Apple challenging the FBI. Plus the Community Calendar and Predictions!

Host: Jason C. McLean
Producer: Hannah Besseau
Production Assistant: Enzo Sabbagha

Panelists

Katie Nelson: Concordia student and frequent taxi passenger

Enzo Sabbagha: Concordia student and podcast technical assistant

Jerry Gabriel: Podcast regular and FTB contributor

* Uber v Taxi report by Hannah Besseau

Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons