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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Human Rights Hearing Begins Into Racialized, Discriminatory Taxi System

TORONTO, May 10 /CNW/ - A human rights hearing has begun in the case of Asafo Adai, who alleges Toronto has created a discriminatory taxi system that relegates racialized groups to second-class status.

The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has scheduled several days for the hearing into Adai's complaint against the City of Toronto's two-tier system of "Ambassador" and "Standard" taxi plates. The hearing began today at 655 Bay Street, 14th Floor, and continues May 11, 12, 14 and 17.

Assisted by the Itaxiworkers Association, Adai launched his complaint more than two years ago on behalf of hundreds of Ambassador drivers. The drivers say they are severely disadvantaged by the city's failure to implement a full package of reforms that was supposed to improve taxi service and conditions for drivers.

The Itaxiworkers have retained prominent civil and human rights lawyer Peter Rosenthal to argue the case. The Human Rights Tribunal is hearing the case in light of the fact that over 90% of the Ambassador drivers are from racialized minorities, while the majority of Standard plate owners are from European backgrounds.

"It is time to get rid of the two-tier plate system in Toronto and reform the taxi industry so all drivers can make a decent living and be treated with dignity," said Sajid Mughal, President of the Toronto Chapter of the iTAXIWORKERS Association.

"This case is the first step in making the taxi industry in Toronto a good place for all drivers, no matter what the colour of their skin or their ethnic backgrounds."

The Ambassador plate system was implemented in 1999 on the principle that an owner-operator based taxi industry would be better for the public and for the driver.

In fact, the opposite occurred. Although Ambassador drivers provide prompt, clean and efficient service they find themselves with plates that have no value. Ambassador drivers must hand in their plates when they retire and they receive nothing for them. In contrast, Standard plate holders can sell their plates for hundreds of thousands of dollars at the end of their working lives.

As well, Ambassador drivers who get sick or injured must hand in their plates, while a Standard plate holder who is off work can hire a second driver to work his or her cab.

For further information: Peter Leibovitch, Executive Director, Itaxiworkers Association, (416) 278-4123

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