Samantha Feder just wanted to get to Toronto.
In September, the Ottawa woman booked a trip with Amigo Express, a company that connects drivers with passengers looking to share the costs of long-distance trips, in what she expected would be a four-seat sedan.
But when she showed up on her day of departure, a shuttle-style van with an unfamiliar licence plate and more than a dozen random strangers inside was waiting for her.
“It was clear to me that there were people who maybe had booked from other services [like] Kijiji or Craigslist,” Feder said.
“I decided I was not going to get into the car.”
Kijiji, Craigslist and other such sites are filled with requests from drivers seeking passengers to share the cost of one-off trips, such as chipping in for gas, a practice that’s completely above board.
But there are also posts offering multiple trips a day in state-of-the-art vans equipped with the internet and other amenities — and that sort of unlicensed carpooling is prohibited in both Ontario and Quebec.
In Ontario, transportation services that take passengers across municipal boundaries for a fee — aside from taxis and personal carpools — must have a proper operating licence through the Ontario Highway Transport Board.
Under the Public Vehicles Act, carpooling vehicles cannot carry more than 10 people.
They can only make a single, one-way or round trip per day, drivers can only charge to cover the costs of operating the vehicle, and the presence of passengers must be “incidental” to the driver’s purpose for the trip, according to transportation ministry spokesperson Kristine Bunker.
“Drivers offering intercity rideshare services for compensation above and beyond reimbursement for expenses incurred to operate the vehicle are in contravention of these requirements,” wrote Bunker in an email.
The regulations are also clear in Quebec: According to a statement on the transportation’s ministry website, there is “no such thing as commercial carpooling.”
As part of an investigation into the scope of illegal carpooling, Radio-Canada reserved a trip from Ottawa to Montreal with a driver who was offering six trips — three there and three back — each day.
Using hidden cameras, Radio-Canada reporters showed up at the meeting point twice to find the same driver in the same vehicle.
When asked if he had a special Ontario permit for this type of trip, the driver said he didn’t and then told the reporters to “take a Greyhound” instead.
Contacted by Radio-Canada a few days later, the driver said he had ended this sort of activity. As of Friday, however, his advertisement was still online.
No licensing, no oversight
Radio-Canada also spoke to a group of people waiting for a similar carpooling pickup in the ByWard Market. Many said they weren’t worried about safety risks, calling it a more affordable option than taking either the bus or the train.
“It is a problem,” said Kristine D’Arbelles, a spokesperson with the CAA.
D’Arbelles said the internet has made illegal carpooling much easier, with risks to passengers. There’s no way of knowing if the driver has a valid driver’s licence, if they’re insured, or what condition their vehicle is in, she said.
“There is no licensing and there is no oversight,” she said.
Amigo Express, also known as Kangaride, declined an interview with Radio-Canada.
The company’s director, Marc-Olivier Vachon, wrote in an email the company was taking all steps to stem the improper use of sites like Kijiji.
A spokesperson with Kijiji said the site is taking measures to counter illegal carpooling, and has a “dedicated commitment” to comply with the law.
“We commit significant resources toward the detection and prevention of activities that infringe our policies — this includes industry-leading technology and a dedicated community support team, in addition to help from our community of Kijiji users who flag inappropriate postings,” wrote Marie-Philippe Busque in an email.
As for Feder, while she was able to get her booking refunded, she ended up having to take an expensive last-minute train to Toronto.
“Although they did give me credits, I haven’t used the service since,” she said.
Trudeau nominates first judge of colour to sit on Supreme Court
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday made history by nominating the first judge of color to sit on the country’s Supreme Court, which has only ever had white justices in its 146-year existence.
Mahmud Jamal, who has been a judge on Ontario‘s court of appeal since 2019, trained as a lawyer and appeared before the Supreme Court in 35 appeals addressing a range of civil, constitutional, criminal and regulatory issues.
“He’ll be a valuable asset to the Supreme Court – and that’s why, today, I’m announcing his historic nomination to our country’s highest court,” Trudeau said on Twitter.
Trudeau has frequently said there is a need to address systemic racism in Canada.
Jamal, born in Nairobi in 1967, emigrated with his family to Britain in 1969 where he said he was “taunted and harassed because of my name, religion, or the color of my skin.”
In 1981 the family moved to Canada, where his “experiences exposed me to some of the challenges and aspirations of immigrants, religious minorities, and racialized persons,” he said in a document submitted to support his candidacy.
Canada is a multicultural country, with more than 22% of the population comprised of minorities and another 5% aboriginal, according to the latest census.
“We know people are facing systemic discrimination, unconscious bias and anti-black racism every single day,” Trudeau said last year.
Jamal will replace Justice Rosalie Abella, who is due to retire from the nine-person court on July 1.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Matthew Lewis)
Donors pledge $1.5 billion for Venezuelan migrants, humanitarian crisis
More than 30 countries and two development banks on Thursday pledged more than $1.5 billion in grants and loans to aid Venezuelan migrants fleeing a humanitarian crisis, as well as their host countries and vulnerable people still in the country.
The $954 million in grants announced at a donors’ conference hosted by Canada – which included pledges of $407 million from the United States and C$115 million Canadian dollars ($93.12 million) from Canada – exceeded the $653 million announced at a similar event last year.
But that fell short of the needs of countries hosting the more than 5.6 million Venezuelans who have left their country since 2015, as the once-prosperous nation’s economy collapsed into a years-long hyperinflationary recession under socialist President Nicolas Maduro.
Most have resettled in developing countries in Latin America and the Caribbean who have themselves seen their budgets stretched thin due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Does this cover all needs? Of course not,” Filippo Grandi, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, told reporters. “We will have to continue to encourage donors to support the response.”
At the conference, Ecuadorean President Guillermo Lasso announced that the country – which hosts some 430,000 Venezuelans – would begin a new process to regularize migrants’ status. That came after Colombia in February gave 10-year protected status to the 1.8 million Venezuelans it hosts.
Karina Gould, Canada‘s minister for international development, said the amount pledged showed donors were eager to support such efforts.
“There is that recognition on behalf of the global community that there needs to be support to ensure that that generosity can continue, and can actually deepen, in host countries,” Gould said.
In addition, the World Bank and Inter-American Developmemt Bank pledged $600 million in loans to address the crisis, Gould said.
($1 = 1.2349 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by Luc Cohen, Michelle Nichols and David Ljunggren; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Aurora Ellis)
Ecuador to start new ‘normalization process’ for Venezuelan migrants
Ecuador will implement a new “normalization process” for the 430,000 Venezuelan migrants living in the South American country, President Guillermo Lasso said on Thursday, without providing further details of the plan.
Lasso’s announcement, at a conference hosted by Canada intended to raise money to support the more than 5.6 million Venezuelans who have fled an economic crisis in the South American country, came after Colombia in February gave 10-year protected status to the nearly 2 million Venezuelans it hosts.
“I am pleased to announce the beginning of a new regularization process, which in order to be an effective, lasting and permanent policy should be complemented by strategies for economic integration and labor market access,” Lasso said.
Ecuador in late 2019 launched a regularization process for Venezuelans who arrived before July of that year. That included two-year humanitarian visas meant to facilitate access to social services.
Lasso said Ecuador needed outside funding to continue caring for Venezuelan migrants, estimating that more than 100,000 additional migrants were expected to arrive before the end of the year.
“I call on our partners in the international community to be co-responsible and have solidarity with Venezuelan migrants and refugees, and with the countries that receive them,” he said.
(Reporting by Luc Cohen; editing by Barbara Lewis)