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Stabbing of cab driver awakens safety concerns in sector

Regina cabbie, 31, in induced coma


(Canadian OH&S News) — Taxi services in Regina are questioning the safety of their employees following a multiple stabbing that occurred during a cab ride on Nov. 24 — an incident that has since left the driver of the cab in a coma.

Co-op Taxi driver Iqbal Singh Sharma, 31, was stabbed repeatedly in the head, neck and leg by a passenger that evening, according to Co-op president Daljit Singh. A violent altercation between fares occurred in the back seat while Sharma was operating the vehicle, Singh explained.

“They started fighting and screaming. And our driver, he started looking at what’s going on,” said Singh. “Soon he looked in the back, and the guy started stabbing him.” The assailant subsequently fled the scene.

The Regina Police Service (RPS) was notified of the attack at about 9:20 p.m. and attended the scene, where a crowd of people was trying to assist one of the injured parties, according to a Nov. 28 news release. Emergency services also arrived to take Sharma and two other men to the hospital.

Officers were informed of a man acting suspiciously in the area, and they soon arrested Leroy Aaron Redwood, 20, without incident. Redwood, a resident of Calgary, is charged with three counts of attempted murder and four counts of breach of recognizance, police said. He made his first court appearance on the morning of Nov. 28. The police investigation of the incident is ongoing.

Sharma has remained in an induced coma and is expected to be in the hospital with life-threatening injuries until at least the second week of December, said Singh. “Because his brain is damaged and his blood pressure’s very high,” he added. “The heartbeat’s very high too.” At the moment, it is uncertain “what’s going to happen, if he’s going to come back to life or not.”

In response to the incident, the City of Regina issued a media statement noting that it was undertaking a review of the city’s taxi bylaw, which requires security cameras and GPS in all cabs.

“As part of the review, the City is engaging with the taxi industry,” the statement continued. “The industry has, as part of its business operations, the option to go above the mandatory security requirements.

“The City of Regina is committed to ensuring a safe taxi experience for both passengers and drivers.”

Elizabeth Popowich, manager of public information and strategic communication with the RPS, told COHSN in an e-mailed response that the service participates in discussions with the City and taxi firms about driver safety. But while the RPS does make recommendations on enhancing safety, she stressed, these recommendations are not binding.

“Often, changes are staged so that both the business owners and the public can make the transition smoothly, both in terms of cost and changes to [the] business process,” wrote Popowich. “The introduction of cameras inside taxicabs is an example of such a change.”

She added that the taxi sector comes with its own set of inherent risks in all communities.

“The driver and the passenger end up together in an enclosed space, inside a moving vehicle, and often, the driver has very limited information upon which to base any sort of risk assessment,” said Popowich. “There are measures that can enhance safety, but they also have to be practical and affordable.”

Singh said he believed that punishment of violent offenders was not harsh enough.

“If somebody’s trying to kill somebody, just don’t put them in the regular jail. They should have a special jail,” said Singh. “It depends on what kind of crime they did.”

He speculated that violence and robberies against cab drivers increase during the winter months because people in poverty “want to go to the jail” in order to get free shelter and meals. He suggested decreasing the amount of food that violent inmates receive — “as much food only to survive” — as one solution.

“That’s what I’m thinking, but I don’t know what other people think,” said Singh.

While RPS statistics do not categorize violent crimes in terms of the victims’ occupations, the service does keep track of cab robberies on a monthly basis. Regina saw nine taxi robberies each in 2012, 2013 and 2014; the number decreased to eight for 2015, but there were already six from Jan. 1 to Aug. 31 of this year, said Popowich.

“Cab driving is a very dangerous job,” said Singh. “We have to catch those people.”