A Halifax taxi driver is speaking out after video was shared online showing a male passenger hurling racial slurs at him after being asked to wear a mask.
Kuldip Dhunna says he was driving a passenger to a hotel in downtown Halifax on Thursday, when the passenger began coughing.
“I just told him very politely, ‘sir, next time when you take a cab, please put a mask on’, and he started saying, ‘go back to where you came from’,” says Dhunna.
Dhunna says the passenger responded by lashing out, using offensive language and racial slurs and telling Dhunna to ‘go back where he came from’.
“So I told him, ‘you can go, you can get away from my car now’, and he said that ‘immigrants are taking our jobs away’. I said, ‘I am a Canadian citizen, and we still need immigrants, Canada still needs immigrants’,” recalls Dhunna.
The encounter was caught on Dhunna’s dashcam. His daughter Shivani shared it on her Instagram page, where it has been viewed over 50,000 times. Another daughter, Simran, posted it to Twitter, where it has nearly 200,000 views in less than 48 hours.
“I’m happy she did, because first I sent the video to my family, and my daughter was crying and said she was going to post it to social media. At first I said, ‘no don’t, I have to ask my company’,” says Dhunna. “But she said it would raise awareness and I’m happy she did because so many people, white, brown and Black, are supporting me, because I didn’t do anything wrong.”
After the man exited Dhunna’s vehicle, the driver called the non-emergency police line to report the incident.
Halifax Regional Police say officers have determined there were no grounds for criminal charges, but a spokesperson for the force says the comments were ‘offensive’ and if more information comes to light, police would consider reopening the investigation.
“Under the criminal code, there generally has to be a crime associated with the offensive slurs, such as an assault or property damage, or if it is in public and inciting hate. It does need to meet those elements for us to pursue it under the criminal code,” explained Sgt. Tanya Chambers-Spriggs of the Halifax Regional Police.
The president of a local taxi drivers’ association says that offensive behaviour towards drivers is all too common.
“This situation shouldn’t be happening in taxis at all,” says Darshan Virk, president of the United Cab Drivers Association of Halifax. “Nobody has to attack each other, a person’s colour, religion, language or accent, they are not the choice of the driver, they come where the person was born.”
Dhunna says he has been living in Halifax for more than 11 years, and driving a taxi for nearly 10. He says he has had minor confrontations with passengers in the past, but this one especially affected him.
“This was very hurtful to me because he told me to go back to your country, but Canada is my country. I got my citizenship in 2013, I don’t have Indian citizenship anymore. I’m Canadian, where do I go?” asks Dhunna.
He says he is considering speaking to the Canadian Human Rights Commission to file a complaint.
“There should be a law implemented. I think about other new immigrants coming to the province after me, my family, my kids and grandkids, how would they feel? There should be something to hold them accountable.”
Dhunna says he is taking a couple days off from driving, but will return to his taxi next week.