OTTAWA – Politics – This past week I tabled a bill in parliament that I hope will offer some more protection for transit operators while they are on the job and serving the public. Bill C-531: An Act to amend the Criminal Code (public transit operators), if debated and passed, would require the court, at sentencing, to consider as an aggravating circumstance the fact that the victim of an assault is a public transit operator.
The idea for this bill came from some recent local news stories on a pair of assaults that have occurred on Thunder Bay Transit buses since the start of the year, and after discussions with representatives from Local 966 of the Amalgamated Transit Union. The two incidents in question were attacks on drivers who were in a vulnerable position by the very nature of their job and put the health and well-being of the drivers, the passengers, and the nearby public at risk. This point was underlined to me in a meeting that I had with ATU local 966 President Sheila Kivisto and Union Steward Andrew Parr in early March.
For more information on this bill I would like to share remarks that I made at a press conference that I convened in Ottawa on Wednesday June 12th to promote the bill.
Thank you for joining me here today. Recently in Thunder Bay we have had some violent incidents where two transit drivers from Local 966 of the Amalgamated Transit Union have become victims of assault while carrying out their duties on our behalf.
Harassment and assault against those who have dedicated their lives to the service of the public is completely unacceptable to the people of Thunder Bay – Rainy River and to Canadians from coast to coast. New Democrats believe that we must both respect and protect those who devote themselves to public service.
Transit drivers, due to the nature of their work and their inherent inability to defend themselves against aggressive acts while carrying out their primary duties, face a number of unusual and unpredictable threats in their workplace that most Canadians do not. Transit passengers and members of the general public also want to know that their safety is protected at all times, and the best way to do that on our transit systems is to protect our operators.
Given these recent events in Thunder Bay, but also in other municipalities across Canada from Montreal to Sudbury to Vancouver, it is clear that our transit drivers deserve greater physical protection on the job and legal protection in the courts from such threats to their well-being. As a federal Member of Parliament I will be tabling a bill today to address the legal protections of transit drivers.
My bill titled; An Act to amend the Criminal Code (public transit operators), will require the court, at sentencing, to consider as an aggravating circumstance the fact that the victim of an assault is a public transit operator.
I hope this bill will act as a deterrent to such violent incidents upon transit drivers in our communities, and complement what I hope will be more vigorous efforts by provincial and local governments to offer greater physical protections to our transit operators while they are on the job and serving the public.
This bill has been drafted in consultation with my New Democrat colleagues from across Canada and I would like to thank them for sharing their thoughts and support for putting this bill forward.
I would also like to thank the newly Independent Member of Parliament for Edmonton St. Albert, Mr. Rathgeber, who tabled a similar bill in the last parliament and consulted with me on the drafting of this bill.
In closing, I would like to assure members of the Amalgamated Transit Union and other transit operators across Canada who devote themselves to providing a very high level of public service that New Democrats and Canadians stand with you and are committed to making your workplace as safe as possible.
John Rafferty MP