Toronto Uber driver caught on camera hurling racist slur while trying to abandon passengers
Driving to Polson Pier sucks. There are no if, ands, or buts about it.
Directly accessible by only one single street — Cherry Street — and with little more running alongside it than a narrow sidewalk broken up by construction sites, this remote part of Toronto's Port Lands is known as much for its massive parties as it is for being a pain to reach... especially during said massive parties.
Parking is expensive. Traffic is slow. You can't get drunk at Cabana Pool Bar or Rebel Nightclub if you need to drive home, and why else would you go to either of those venues? To see a DJ? You know that drugs count toward impaired driving charges, too, right?
The easiest way since the dawn of The Docks has simply been to take a cab out there — something hundreds of thousands of people have done to attend concerts at Rebel (or Sound Academy before it) since the entertainment complex's inception back in the 1990s.
Veteran taxi drivers know that taking a fare out to Polson Pier can be seriously annoying, fraught with gridlock before and after events. It's a part of the job and it can lucrative thanks to lengthy rides and big tips.
Uber drivers, on the other hand... well, some are less-than-familiar with the intricacies of driving in downtown Toronto. A lot of them, in my experience. But I've never been harassed, cursed at and told to hop out of a car in the middle of nowhere, simply for requesting a ride toward Cherry Beach.
A 22-year-old Toronto woman named Helin Turk can't say the same, unfortunately, after she and a friend were verbally assaulted by a racist Uber driver who asked them to get out of his car and walk all the way down Cherry from Lake Shore to Rebel themselves.
A Toronto Uber driver got racist during an intense ride to Rebel nightclub on Saturday - 📹 @TurkHelin #Toronto #Uber pic.twitter.com/eLrwDSyo4E— blogTO (@blogTO) March 24, 2022
Turk says that she and a friend were about 15 minutes away from the popular nighclub on Saturday evening around 11 when "the driver kept suggesting that we should walk" the rest of the way, arguing that they were "wasting his time."
The duo politely declined and asked the driver to keep going, as he was being paid to take them to REBEL. He didn't like that.
"He got very aggressive and yelled at us," Turk told blogTO. "He was drifting and he called my friend the N word... I've had drivers suggest that I should walk (down Cherry to REBEL) one or two time times before, but when I said no they didn't insist or get aggressive like that."
The third-year journalism student at Ryerson started recording the interaction on her phone as it became heated. blogTO has internally verified that the driver used the aforementioned racist slur toward her friend, though we bleeped out the word before sharing it publicly.
If someone who isn’t black uses the n word, additional information isn’t required.— sober kels (@_kelseyturner) March 24, 2022
When Turk went to report the upsetting interaction to Uber, she found that her account had already been suspended. The driver had reported her first. After speaking with Uber, her account has been restored.
When sent the video in question and asked for comment, an Uber spokesperson sent the following statement to blogTO:
"Everyone who uses Uber's platform is expected to make every experience feel safe, respectful, and positive. To ensure this, when riders and drivers sign up to use the platform, they both agree to follow Uber's Community Guidelines. Making racial comments or using slurs is never okay and is a clear violation of our Community Guidelines. Individuals who do not follow these guidelines risk losing access to the platform. In some situations, our team applies a temporary hold on a user’s account while we investigate a complaint, and account access may be restored after the investigation. While we cannot comment on any individual rider or driver account for privacy reasons, we would stress that if riders or drivers are the recipient of or witness any threatening, rude or discriminatory behaviour, they can report the situation to Uber by tapping Help in the app so our Support Team can follow up and take appropriate action.”
Uber did not say whether or not the driver is still working on their platform. Turk, still quite upset about what happened, hopes that the company "does the right thing and fires him."
"I think he was mad and he just wanted to take advantage of my friend's background, his skin colour, which is a terrible thing to do," she said of the driver.
"I assume that he was a racist person in general because I'm a white foreigner and he didn't say any racist words to me... but he kept yelling at me and told me to shut up when I was defending my friend and telling him that it's not okay to say that racist word."
"We must condemn racism and discrimination and we shouldn't turn a blind eye," says Turk, an international student who hails from Turkey. "I hope this doesn't happen to anyone again. And if it happens they shouldn't turn a blind eye."
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