Safety on Public Transit, taxis and ride sharing

Since I have been elected to Council one of my main areas of focus has been safety for everyone including the vulnerable, children and women. As part of the UN Women Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces for Women and Girls we completed a scoping study that identified public transportation as an area that women felt the most vulnerable. Public transit, taxis and ride-sharing services are a site for risk of sexual violence.

Over the past few years we have been working on increasing security at public transit by utilizing good urban design principles, and earlier this year we began 24/7 security at many transit stations. I am happy with some of the progress we have made with public transit but will continue to push for even more safety.

I heard from women during the Uber debate that safety is one of the concerns they had. They felt it was important that Criminal record checks were in place before someone could be licensed and the same standard applies to all drivers including taxi cabs.

Currently the bylaws in place keep new applicants with convictions from getting their vehicle for hire license. However, already licensed individuals (with convictions that have occurred since they were first granted their licence) are successfully appealing their licence rejection because of the lack of clarity in the bylaw. As an unintended consequence this action has eroded public trust and safety. The idea that anyone that has been convicted of crime is allowed to drive the public concerns me, and as a City we have a responsibility to only license those who we feel confident will keep our citizens safe.

On March 6th this item is coming to Community and Public Services Committee for debate. My priority is public safety and will work to have clarity of rules and expectations. Let me know your thoughts or come and speak to this issue at Committee. You can register to speak at committee or public hearing here.

UN Safe Cities

Last week I attended UN Women Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces Global Leaders Forum which included much discussion on reducing sexual harassment and assault in public places in cities. The City of Edmonton is a wonderful City made up of many caring individuals, however, we still face a growing concern with violence and sexual assault. The majority of gender based violence is committed against women and girls, which points to roots of the violence about gender equality.  It’s an important issue for everyone to be a part of as violence against women and girls has economic, social, emotional, and physical impacts that limit their ability to fully participate in civic and political life. This could limit their potential as an individual, and their potential within the greater community. Men and boys play a large part in reducing this problem by being strong allies and advocates against violence and sexual assault .

As a City we saw the need to step in to help with this issue. In April 2015 the City of Edmonton’s initiative on gender-based violence and sexual assault prevention was initiated by Council, its aim is to end gender-based and sexual violence in Edmonton. If we want to achieve gender equity and empowerment, it is critical our public spaces are safe for everyone. A city free of sexual violence in public spaces is a city that is safe for all.

Edmonton is increasing crime prevention through environmental design audits of green spaces, transit terminals or other public spaces, with the intention of making spaces safer and more inclusive for everyone. The aim is to help people better anticipate their surroundings, feel welcome and know that services are easily available.

In 2016, Edmonton became the second ‘safe’ city in Canada to join the United Nations Women Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces Global Initiative to make urban public spaces safe and empowering for women and girls.

As we have been working on this initiative we have learned that we need to clarify what gender based violence is – that it’s not just physical acts – but includes actions such as verbal and emotional harm. Understanding this helped us come up with and launch the “Its Time Yeg” campaign and itstimeyeg.ca to help people understand the effects of their actions. We know that working together is the only way we’ll end gender based violence.

There is a shared civic responsibility for stewarding these kinds of changes, and they must be done together. It’s important to acknowledge we all have a role to play in creating safe, inclusive spaces. Would you partner with me in standing against gender based violence?

Women’s Initiative

Edmonton has a rich history of incredible, strong women who believed that they could make a difference in their world. Like my predecessors, (Click Here to Learn More about the Famous Five!) I want to encourage & empower women from all walks that they to have a voice in our city.

Women constantly & consistently use their voices to speak up for others, whether it’s advocating for their child in school, speaking up and ensuring quality care for sick family member, or just being a voice of encouragement and inspiration with a friend over coffee…so why not speak up and speak out and take an active role in transforming our communities.

Maybe you’ve been waiting for somebody to give you permission and say, “Your ideas are important, and your voice matters.” Well, let me be the first of many to say to you today, your ideas are important and your voice matters! Can you imagine a community, and City that created forums and opportunities for you to use your voice to make a positive impact in your community? We need everyone to speak up… you have a voice, and it’s your choice whether or not you are going to use it!

My hope is that through the Women’s initiative and WAVE, and including events like our Women’s symposium, that we are giving women an opportunity to voice their concerns and aspirations for our city and the issues we are facing.

Everyone has a voice….and it is our choice whether or not we use it. There are many places we can speak up but I want to use my voice to empower others to use their voice. Together we can build a strong community.

I look forward to hearing from you!

– Councilor Bev Esslinger