NEWS: NDP calls to extend greater protection for bus operators and transit workers

Should be awarded same protection as police personnel

OTTAWA – Hundreds of attacks on bus drivers and transit operators are reported annually from coast to coast to coast. Today, NDP Transport Critic Peter Julian (Burnaby–New Westminster) called on the House of Commons to extend greater protection to drivers and transit operators under the Criminal Code of Canada. He was joined by representatives of the Canadian Auto Workers Union and the Amalgamated Transit Union of Canada, representing bus drivers and transit workers.

In Vancouver, about 240 attacks are reported each year. In Montreal, 100 attacks are reported annually, while in Toronto, the average is 350 too 400 attacks. According to a 2005 survey, 36 per cent of transit operators have experienced acts of physical assault. Since January 2007 alone, one Canadian bus driver has been shot at, while another bus driver was beaten so badly that four months later she still had not returned to work.

“Bus drivers and transit operators are increasingly victims of brutal, senseless attacks while on duty,” said Julian. “Under the Criminal Code, assailants of police personnel assaulted while performing their duties are subject to stiffer criminal penalties. We need to deter attackers of bus drivers and transit operators by establishing tough provisions.”

Given their position belted into a seat behind a steering wheel, bus drivers are particularly vulnerable to attacks.

In one recent case in Victoria, BC, a judge handed down a sentence that amounted to only a short probation and community service to someone who assaulted a transit worker. The judge explained that while the severity of the assault warranted a much more severe sentence, the probation was the only way to monitor the person for a period longer than a few months.

The Private Members’ Motion calls on the government to award bus drivers and transit operators the same protections under the Criminal Code of Canada afforded to police personnel who are assaulted while performing their duties, by establishing stiffer penalties for their assailants.

Julian is also in the process of developing a Private Members’ Bill that would cement the intent of this motion into law.