Licensed to drive?
Number of Northern cabbies not licensed for the road

FACT FILE: License classes
Class 4
permits the operation of a bus having a seating capacity not exceeding 24 passengers
a taxi
an ambulance
any vehicle in Class 5
any vehicle in Class 1, 2, 3 or 6 while learning to operate it
Class 5
permits a two-axle vehicle other than a motorcycle, bus, taxi or an ambulance
any combination of a two-axle towing vehicle and towed vehicles where the towing and towed vehicles do not exceed a gross weight of 4,500 kilograms
a recreational vehicle
a vehicle known as a grader, loader, shovel, roller, scraper or any other self-propelled road building machine used for grading or paving

by Jeff Colbourne
Northern News Services

NNSL (Nov 24/97) - For five years Percy Kabloona has been operating Siqiniq Taxi, the lone cab company in Whale Cove.

Unfortunately, the two drivers for his passenger bus are not properly licensed to drive.

Kabloona knows he's breaking the law, but there's more to it than Kabloona not just wanting to study for a test.

Class 4 driving exams, it turns out, are not readily available in Whale Cove, or many other Northern communities.

"I think Class 4 tests, they need it badly up here," said Kabloona.

A class 4 licence, which costs about $80, plus another $30 for the written test, is only available in larger communities such as Yellowknife, Rankin Inlet or Iqaluit.

Kabloona said he has tries to get Class 4 licencing in Whale Cove, but to this date, nothing has come to his hamlet.

During a visit the capital he tried to schedule a test, but the motor vehicles office was too busy to accommodate him. About a month ago he met with Arctic College officials, who told him they would be coming to Whale Cove to do a Class 4 course. They have yet to show up.

In December he's coming to Yellowknife again, at which time he hopes to get his licence.

Getting insurance has not been easy for Kabloona's company either. He been unable to get insurance for his cab because he doesn't have the proper class of licence.

He was forced to get collision coverage from a Manitoba insurance company. "They don't ask so many questions," he said.

Insurance runs Kabloona $4,600 annually for his bus and $900 a year for Workers' Compensation Board coverage.

"It's expensive, especially since there's no traffic in the community. It's pretty hard to be in business right now."

RCMP Cpl. Bill Eubank of Arviat said he doesn't officially know if taxis are properly licensed or not, but he's not surprised to hear they aren't.

"They can't get the proper licences," said Eubank. "We only do driver's licences for restricted Class 5."

Well aware that it's against the law to drive without proper licences, police are in a catch-22 situation.

"You can't haul cabs off the road for something that is out of the driver's control," he said. "What would the health station do without taxi cabs? What about elderly people?"

"You have to weigh the community benefits against the situation. There's no where to get a Class 4," said Eubank.

If someone gets hurt in an accident with an unlicensed driver, Eubank was asked, would the driver be charged?

Even though the onus is on the driver to drive safely, the circumstance surrounding the accident will be looked at individually, he responded.

"It's a discretionary call."

Const. Terry Patenaude of the Cambridge Bay RCMP detachment, said there are no cab drivers with the lone Co-op cab company in town without a Class 4 licence.

"We keep a fairly close eye on the taxis," said Patenaude. (But) the co-op is just excellent. They're pretty good like that."

Patenaude said he's never issued a ticket to a driver that hasn't had the proper class of licence, but his wife, who's from the Baffin, said she knows of others who were driving without the Class 4 licence.

A spokesperson for Baffin's motor vehicle division of the territorial Department of Transportation who did not want her name published said her office does quite a few road tests but hardly any in the communities.

"We go out into the communities a little bit but it wouldn't be hardly for any testing," she said. "It's the RCMP's mandate to do the testing."

Gary Walsh, assistant director and deputy registrar for the motor vehicles division in Yellowknife, confirmed that RCMP officers do the licensing in smaller communities. "It's an issue we seem to deal with a lot," said Walsh.

If people are driving around without proper licences, he said he doesn't know if the community is turning a blind eye.

There is no NWT-wide taxi commission and no other organizational body that regulates taxis in the territories.

It's up to the individual hamlets and settlements to issue cab licences and the RCMP or bylaw enforcement agencies to ensure that cab operators are up to snuff, Walsh said.