‘I was never there,’ taxi driver tells rights hearing

Bob’s taxi driver Aleksy Osipenkov denies being present when women allege he issued racial slurs

This story has been updated since initially published.

Bob’s Taxi Ltd. is the largest fleet in Darmouth, N.S. Photo: Deborah Oomen

A taxi driver at the centre of a human rights hearing today took the stand to deny any knowledge of the event.

“I never shouted because I was never there,” said driver Aleksy Osipenkov.

Denying that he said racial slurs, the driver said he’d never seen the complainants until after the incident was brought to his attention.

When asked if he was a racist, Osipenkov responded, “In what sense?”

Two women testified yesterday against Osipenkov and Bob’s Taxi Ltd. at a hearing in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.

Javonna Borden told the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission a taxi driver uttered racial slurs against her and her young nephews.

The complainants, Borden and Jennifer Smith on behalf of her two sons, allege racial discrimination by Osipenkov when they entered his taxi.

At one point in the second day of the hearing, the driver refused to answer any more questions. Osipenkov was visibly flustered and wanted to speak to his lawyer and stormed out of the room.

His lack of co-operation upset the family and Borden left the room sobbing.

He returned after having spoken with his lawyer and agreed to finish his cross examination.

A key piece of Osipenkov’s defence was the description of his car. The complainants each described a white car that looks like a police “ghost car” and Osipenkov testified he drove a dark grey Grand Prix.

Evidence has been presented by all parties and concluding statements will be scheduled to be submitted in person to board chairman Dennis James at the soonest available date.

The Incident

The incident occurred in July 2011, on the day of Borden’s 20th birthday during the early hours of the evening. Borden said she had gone out for a meal to celebrate with her two nephews, ages 10 and 13 at the time.

On the way back from the meal, Borden said she called a cab to take the them back to Smith’s house where all three resided at the time.

Getting into the taxi, the older of the two boys sat in the front seat when the complainants allege Osipenkov yelled at him to get in the back.

Borden said she responded by saying he should not speak to a child like that and he told them to get out of the vehicle.

While exiting the vehicle Osipenkov allegedly used both profanity and a racial slur to address Borden and her two young nephews.

The next morning when Borden called for a cab from Bob’s Taxi, she was refused service due to the incident and was told she had been blacklisted from the service.

Javonna Borden (left) and Jennifer Smith (right). Photo: Deborah Oomen
The Inquiry

It was this alleged incident that compelled Borden and Smith to pursue legal actions against Bob’s Taxi Ltd. as well as Osipenkov. The matter was taken to provincial court last year where Osipenkov was charged and acquitted.

Osipenkov failed to appear on Tuesday despite his court- ordered attendance. Following numerous delays over the preceding weeks, the inquiry finally began on Wednesday.

Borden and her nephews each recounted the events of that day in July. All three expressed that the incident had caused them and their family stress and anguish over the past three years.

The two boys, who were young at the time of the encounter, said the incident deeply affected them because it was one of their first direct experiences with racist comments.

Smith said she knew something was wrong the moment her sons arrived home the night of the incident and had “a look that a mother should not see.” She said there’s a lot of racism in the province, “you just don’t see it.”

The manager of Bob’s Taxi, Kim Demont testified that Bob’s Taxi — the company which her father co-founded — does not condone the alleged behavior of Osipenkov.

Demont said she does not employ or pay the taxi drivers. She says she only gives drivers equipment and access to dispatchers in exchange for paying her a fee to work under the company name.

Photo: Deborah Oomen.

Update: New trial evidence

 

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