April 22nd, 2024

N.L. hastily approved ride-hailing application from man accused of sex crime

By The Canadian Press on February 21, 2024.

Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court in St.John's is shown in a file photo. Emails show an application for Newfoundland and Labrador's first ride-hailing licence submitted by a man accused of sexual assault was approved by the province in just one day. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sarah Smellie

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – Emails show an application for Newfoundland and Labrador’s first ride-hailing licence, submitted by a man accused of sexual assault, was approved by the province in just one day.

Documents obtained by The Canadian Press through access to information legislation also show that Redsea Riding’s application for a ride-hailing licence included an eight-page company policy that was heavily copied from Uber’s website.

The policy includes a requirement regarding “Ontario vehicle insurance” and discusses the situation of drivers with addresses in Barrie, Ont.

The borrowing from Uber was first reported today by SaltWire, which also obtained the company policy.

The emails show Redsea owner Yosief Tesfamicael wrote to the government on Jan. 16 to say he’d submitted the licence application, and after providing some additional information, he was informed the next day by the Registrar of Motor Vehicles that his application was approved.

The province announced the approval on Jan. 19 but it said a few days later that the license had been suspended because of “new information” about the successful company.

A case summary report from the province’s Supreme Court last month showed that Tesfamicael has pleaded not guilty to six charges, including sexual assault, sexual interference and unlawfully making sexually explicit material available to a child.

The documents provided to The Canadian Press show Tesfamicael had been in contact with government officials since at least November to express his interest in applying for a ride-hailing licence.

Sarah Stoodley, minister of digital government, sent him a letter on Nov. 30, in response to an email asking about the status of legislation that would allow ride-hailing operations in the province.

“We are working toward a very aggressive timeline, with the intent to having these regulations implemented, and the licensing application available, early in the new year,” Stoodley wrote.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 21, 2024.

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