Attack on Winnipeg bus driver highlights concerns of Ottawa operators
Winnipeg Police have released video showing a violent attack on a bus driver in that city that was caught on camera. Now, bus operators across this country, including here in Ottawa, are thinking about their own safety. Ottawa drivers say attacks are happening too frequently here and offenders are getting away with a slap on the wrist.
The attack happened September 14th over a piece of paper -- a bus transfer. Winnipeg police are hoping to catch the man in this video, after the driver was repeatedly punched and kicked. The attack goes on for three minutes as he tries to defend himself. Finally a couple of men board the bus and intervene.
Bus drivers to whom we showed the video were shocked by the level of violence.
OC Transpo operator Shane, who didn’t want to give his last name, said, “We are serving people here and we get bad treatment,” but he adds, “99.9 percent of passengers are good.”
“I’ve been lucky,” says Terry Claessen, an operator with OC Transpo, “15 years on the job (and nothing like that has ever happened to him.”
The head of the union for Ottawa's bus operators says it is happening here; there’s just no video on board to capture the attacks. Buses here don't have cameras yet.
“We've had it happen in Ottawa,” says Craig Watson, the President of the Amalgamated Transit Union, “a guy was dragged off the bus recently so that level of violence doesn't surprise me.”
Watson says there are about 60 physical attacks every year on bus drivers in Ottawa.
“What we're noticing more is that the assaults are stepping up in violence. People are becoming more violent towards the bus driver over a $3.45 cent fare. It's astounding.”
Yesterday, 38 year old Paul Ness was given a suspended sentence for a vicious attack April 22 on Ottawa driver John Karagianis that left him with a bloodied nose and cracked rib. Karagianis and the Amalgamated Transit Union were furious over the sentence.
“I was sick to my stomach when I heard the sentence,” said Karagianis in a statement.
Passengers say something has to be done to protect both those driving the buses and those riding in them.
“Society has been changing lately,” says bus passenger Eric Lachance, “and it's getting out of hand.”
Passenger Blair Arthur adds, "There has to be something put in place to protect to drivers on the bus.”
Craig Watson says all the protection in the world isn't going to work, unless those caught pay for their crime.
“We need legislation that dictates to crown attorneys this is serious stuff.”
Legislation is in the works. Liberal Deputy Leader Ralph Goodale introduced Bill C-533, an act to amend the Criminal Code to protect public transportation workers. Every day in Canada, five bus operators are assaulted. Goodale hopes the bill, if it passes, will ensure stronger sentences.