Burnaby taxi driver denied Richmond licence due to ‘instability’ and alcoholism

Richmond News

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Burnaby taxi driver
Photograph By THINKSTOCK

A Burnaby taxi driver has been denied a chauffeur’s permit in Richmond due to his history of “instability” and alcoholism.

A taxi driver applied for a chauffeur’s permit in late February, sponsored by Richmond Taxi Co., but Cpl. Dean Etienne of the Richmond RCMP’s Road Safety Unit refused the permit on the grounds that he had “a pattern of instability and substance abuse.”

While council agreed with the RCMP, they voted to allow the taxi driver to have another appeal after Jan. 1, 2020.

The appeal was heard by council on Tuesday (April 23), where he spoke to council saying he has been sober for six months and has a sponsor through Alcoholics Anonymous.

He added he has driven a taxi driver for 37 years and never drinks and drives.

In his appeal letter to council, the driver said he realizes his past alcohol abuse caused him to hallucinate, resulting in mental health calls to the RCMP.

Coun. Linda McPhail told him she applauds him for his efforts to get over his issues with alcohol.

“But I think we have to think about our community and the safety of our citizens,” she added.

Coun. Bill McNulty said he’d like to give the taxi driver every opportunity to deal with his health issues.

“But my bottom line is to protect the people in Richmond,” McNulty said.

The taxi driver currently holds a chauffeur’s permit with the City of Burnaby, according to documents to council.

Police reports from around the Lower Mainland date back to 2008 outlining incidents where he caused problems while intoxicated in public and acted belligerently. He was also charged in relation to an assault while intoxicated. Police files from 2016 to 2018 describe the man as being found intoxicated several times, causing disturbances and hallucinating that people were going to kill him and his family. In the reports, the family explains that he hallucinates when he drinks alcohol.

Etienne concluded that the driver shouldn’t receive a chauffeur’s permit and that in the last two years, there’s been a “distinct increase in the rate and severity of the calls for police.”

While the driver told the police he is better, Etienne concluded that people with substance abuse issues “do not recover quickly or completely.”

Only Coun. Chak Au voted against the denial, stating he’d prefer a delay in the decision. In the end, the vote to hear another appeal on Jan. 1, 2020 passed unanimously.

The Motor Vehicle Act allows the police department in each municipality to issue chauffeur’s permits.

Council’s decision on the appeal is final, according to a staff report, and can only be overturned by a judicial review in B.C. Supreme Court.