It was only a smooch - but for the driver of a Beck taxi it smacks of big trouble. One night late last month, passenger Dwayne Wyrwas was sitting in the back seat of a cab when he turned to kiss his boyfriend. The token of esteem, it turns out, didn't generate much affection from the cabbie, who insisted the two cease their tender interlude.
A verbal fracas followed, and while there are different versions of what happened - due to be aired at an upcoming court hearing - the upshot is that Wyrwas and his friend vacated the vehicle.
Wyrwas thereupon sent a complaint letter to Councillor Kyle Rae's office charging that the driver had humiliated him. A member of Rae's staff called the supervisor of the city's taxi industry unit, who immediately assigned an investigator to the case.
According to Wyrwas, the driver told him he didn't agree with what the passengers were doing or their lifestyle. "I don't care what your personal opinion is," Wyrwas says he told the driver. "I'm paying you to drive me from point A to point B. You work for the city, you work for the public."
He says he is expecting an apology.
But Andrew Whiteley, a manager at Beck Taxi, refutes Wyrwas's claims that the driver was responding to their sexual orientation. Rather, he says, the driver asked them to refrain because they were distracting him from his driving.
"What the passengers engaged in became a safety concern,' he says. Whiteley adds that the passengers exited the cab after offering to leave if the driver didn't like what they were doing. The driver, he says, never lost his temper, and Whiteley stresses that the employee has a good record with the company. He refuses to give out the cabbie's name in order to protect his privacy.
The city's investigation took little more than a week to complete. According to Bryan Byng, manager of enforcement for the city's taxi industry unit, a charge was laid against the driver for failure to be civil and well-behaved under a bylaw regulating licensed trades in the city. He adds that more legal advice is being sought on grounds for a second charge that he refuses to name.
Byng says he expects both parties to present their case before a justice of the peace in provincial court this summer. Punishments could range from a suspended sentence to a fine. The driver will also have to face a tribunal run by there city's municipal licensing and standards department, where sanctions range from a reprimand to suspension or even revocation of a licence.