Muslim woman thanks OC Transpo driver for defending her against verbal attack
Joanne Schnurr, CTV Ottawa
Published Tuesday, May 31, 2016 5:32PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, May 31, 2016 6:30PM EDT
An OC Transpo bus driver is overwhelmed with the attention he is receiving since stopping a verbal attack against a Muslim woman. The female passenger was so grateful that she snapped a selfie with him.
20-year-old Hailey De Jong says she's used to people staring at her because of her niqab or face covering. But she says a verbal attack on a bus recently shocked her and so did the bus driver's actions when he jumped to her defense.
De Jong has had her share of insults hurled her way since she converted to Islam 3 years ago, even more, since she started wearing a niqab or face veil in October.
“People yell out their car window at you a lot,” she says.
But that is nothing compared to the verbal pummeling she received earlier this month.
De Jong was travelling on an OC Transpo bus May 12, on her way to the Rideau Centre.
“As soon as I sat down I heard a man making comments “she could be a bank robber”. He just resorted to yelling “terrorist, freak,” then he yelled for me to assimilate.”
De Jong wasn't scared; she was mad. So were some of the passengers around her who told the guy to stop. Then she heard the bus driver’s booming voice.
“You could hear him yell from the front of the bus, the whole bus could hear, if you have a problem with her…,” she says.
"....you've got a problem with me,” says Alain Charette, inside an OC Transpo bus, “You’ve got to deal with me,” he recalls saying to the man, “and stop harassing the woman.”
Alain Charette has seen a lot in his 35 years driving a bus. He's learned a lot, too.
“If you allow something like that to carry on,” says Charette, “by not saying something, you become part of it.”
Charette pulled the bus over the first chance he got, opened all the doors and told the man, either he leaves or waits for security. He chose to get off and the bus continued on its way. De Jong then approached Charette at her stop.
“I told him I was really grateful for what he did and I asked him for a selfie.”
That photo was printed in an on-line publication called Muslim Link. Chelby Daigle is the editor in chief.
“As great as it is that the bus driver intervened,” she says, “it was great so many members of our community did as well, the people on the bus who said “hey, leave her alone. It says something about Ottawa and how we are as a community.”
Charette is a little embarrassed about all the attention he's getting but happy, too, his message is getting out: that if you're not doing you're part to support another human being, then what kind of human being are you?