The Deputy Mayor’s comments regarding cab safety in our city: alarming and surprising.

We are shocked and concerned about the comments of the Deputy Mayor of the City of St. John’s, Ron Ellsworth, regarding safety in cabs in the capital city this week.

Mr. Ellsworth is aware of the safety issues with taxi companies in St. John’s, including high rates of sexual assault, because he has been informed by the Chief of Police, individuals and community groups who work frontline. To suggest that, “There is concern there but it’s like everything else. You’ve got to be responsible for what you’re getting into, you’ve got to understand what you’re getting into.” perpetuates the harmful myth that if only women had done something different, made a “better decision” they would not have been assaulted, and therefore they are at fault. We must continue to fight for a healthy and responsible city where taking any cab home after an evening is a safe option for women, and when women come forward to say they are unsafe in our city they are heard and their concerns addressed.

Many community based organizations, including the St. john’s Status of Women Council, worked with the Deputy Mayor in good faith to form a working group to address this issue. We believed this working group was collaborative, continuing to make recommendations and working towards regulations. The Deputy’s Mayors statement, that “there are no plans for the city to take responsibility for regulating cab drivers” is a very disappointing surprise.

Further, Mr. Ellsworth’s comment that, ‘it’s up to consumers to determine which company they feel safest using, and that will drive the companies to regulate themselves’ is reckless and harmful. A healthy city cannot idly sit back and wait for business trends to dictate our safety.

Victim blaming comments, such as those expressed by Mr. Ellsworth as a representative of the City of St. John’s, can and does cause harm to victims of sexual assault. For the many survivors in our community who may be triggered by such comments we encourage you to contact the support line at the Newfoundland and Labrador Sexual Assault and Prevention Centre – Toll-free: 1-800-726-2743.  The Women’s Centre is also available provide support and advocacy – 753-0220.

We respectfully ask that the Deputy Mayor immediately apologize for his comments and recommit to working collaboratively with community groups to ensure safety in all forms of transportation in our city, for everyone.