A quiet procession of approximately 90 taxi cabs, flying black ribbons, drove down Yellowknife’s Franklin Avenue over the Monday lunch hour.
The drivers, accompanied by a police escort, staged a show of respect to slain driver Ahmed Mahamud Ali while hoping to underscore what they say is the need for greater protection.
“It’s to show respect and how we’re mourning for Ahmed,” City Cab general manager Shirley McGrath said as a steady stream of taxis arrived at the community arena parking lot.
The procession wound down Franklin Avenue before ending at Rotary Park.
What happened to Ali on the night he died is not yet fully clear, but his death has led to sustained calls for improved driver safety in Yellowknife.
McGrath said the industry is both pressing government for changes and implementing its own measures.
New legislation being urged by the city’s two cab companies includes allowing drivers to unlatch their seatbelts within city limits if the behaviour of a passenger concerns them.
City Cab is also buying panic alarm buttons to emit a loud sound from the cab, while its communications software is being upgraded on the tablets used by drivers.
Some taxis are already equipped with cameras.
That includes the vehicle of Aurora Taxi driver Patrick Chau, who was one of several members from Yellowknife’s smaller cab company to join the procession.
“We’re all in the same family,” said the seven-year veteran driver.
He said he tries to talk with his fares to establish rapport – but also has a camera with a microphone he can use to record unruly passengers.
Chan and other drivers told Cabin Radio they believe Yellowknife is not ready for the interior plastic shields often found in larger centres, noting they are both expensive and take up a lot of space inside the cab.
The shields are not foolproof, said cabbies, if a fare really wants to cause trouble.
Ali was pronounced dead shortly after being found unconscious in the back seat of his cab outside Stanton Territorial Hospital in the early morning of November 19.
Elias Schiller, 18, and James Schiller, 49, are charged with murder.
Elias’ next court date is on Thursday, December 13. James is scheduled to appear in court by video on Tuesday, December 11. There is a no-contact order between the two.