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.

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


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

Trigger warning, this article discusses sexual assault and rape.

After a 26-year old woman was sexually assaulted by a taxi driver a few weeks ago, the police told her that she had been the third victim of such an attack since July, and went on to find out that she was one of 17 similar cases currently being investigated this year. As if these facts were not hard enough to swallow, Montreal police spokesperson Laurent Gringast went on to suggest a number of ways women can protect themselves against predator cab drivers, which included not taking a cab when they are under the influence and taking a picture of the driver’s badge and sending it to a friend via text message.

According to, half of all women in Canada have been assaulted at least once, either physically or sexually, since the age of 16. Half of all women. At least once.

The website also goes on to explain sexual abuse (for those who are unfamiliar with the term, which seems to be the case here) as “Using threats, intimidation, or physical force to force [someone] into unwanted sexual acts”.


So why, then, is it so easy to blame the victim? She was going home too late. She had drunk a few too many beers. And, of course, she hailed the cab right off the street instead of calling it in, so she was obviously looking for trouble.

The real problem with victim blaming, though, is not one of petty sexist allegations. The biggest problem remains that many women are so afraid of being judged, that they cannot even admit that they were raped, primarily because of the sexist statements leaving the mouths of police commissioners themselves.

How are women supposed to feel safe in a world where they are taught how not to get raped, instead of being insured true security over their own bodies and their minds?

One young woman, Desiree Armstrong, recently came forward to the media about her own assault story, but only after it was revealed that the police were investigating 17 similar cases. When she had reported the assault to the police, they wouldn’t take her seriously, because she had been drinking. While the police went on to say that they may ask an intoxicated person to file a report the next morning, Armstrong maintains that she was not told that, and has since moved to British Columbia.

Leading my own mini-investigation, I took to Facebook to ask my 363 ‘friends’ if any of them had any personal experiences with taxi-driver assaults. Thankfully, not too many people responded, save for two girls – one of them had a friend who had been raped by a taxi driver two years ago, and the other mentioned that she once rode in a cab with a nab who refused to take payment from her and instead insisting that “if [they] kissed/fucked, [they]’d be even.” She then went on to leave the cab without paying since the driver had refused to take her money.


I myself, on the other hand, remember one particular night a few months ago. It must have been around three o’ clock in the morning. I was dying to get home after a long night out. A cab driver saw me standing on the sidewalk and motioned at me to come over. I entered his car and told him I needed to get home, but had no money. I had, indeed, been very intoxicated that night and had definitely not been thinking straight, so it sounded normal to me when the man said “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it.” My idea of the world being full of good people rooted firmly in mind, I replied with, “Really? Wow, that’s so nice of you. Are you serious?” Then he said “Yeah, yeah,” in his weird accent and kind of pointed towards his pants, or something. I don’t remember this part with too much detail, but I remember him saying “You know?” And then I realized that he was suggesting that I pay him in some type of sexual “favor” in return for my “safe” trip home. I suddenly got scared and left the taxi, feeling quite shaken.

While I wouldn’t call my story abuse, because I was obviously given the opportunity to say no, it did leave me feeling extremely paranoid. I can only imagine what these women have been through, but what I can’t imagine is what type of “men” these cab drivers must be in order to abuse a woman in her weakened state, especially when she is intoxicated or tired after a long day, and itching just to get home safe. I am wondering why we are investigating the type of women in these stories instead of the type of men conducting these crimes. I am wondering how it is supposed to be encouraging, at all, for a woman to be told not to take a cab home if she is intoxicated (what else is she supposed to do?), or that she is now expected to always take a photo of the taxi driver’s badge to maintain her own security.

Expecting a reality where women are totally and completely precautious of everything they do is not only unrealistic but completely hypocritical. We can secure ourselves behind bulletproof glass, but that doesn’t stop people from still shooting at us. And sometimes the bulletproof glass isn’t so bulletproof. And sometimes women get raped, no matter how cautious they are. Conditioning women to believe that they are the problem takes the limelight away from the real problem, that is, the assaulters themselves. Causing fear can induce more self-built security, yes, but it is the blindness towards inequalities that will continue to perpetuate the problem, time and time again.