Bus driver’s death sparks out­rage

Cape Breton Post - - CANADA -

Hun­dreds of tran­sit work­ers ral­lied out­side Win­nipeg city hall Fri­day to de­mand safety im­prove­ments fol­low­ing the killing of one of their col­leagues.

“This is not a new is­sue,” John Cal­la­han, pres­i­dent of the bus driv­ers’ union lo­cal, told the crowd. “We’ve been talk­ing about this for the past three years. “Time and time again — as­sault after as­sault after as­sault. What have we got­ten? Lip ser­vice.”

The tran­sit work­ers also marched to the mid­dle of the city’s busiest in­ter­sec­tion at Portage Ave. and Main St. and formed a large square. Some car­ried signs that read “One life is too many.”

The rally came three days after Irvine Jubal Fraser, 58, was stabbed to death at the end of his late-night route. Po­lice said Fraser re­peat­edly told a pas­sen­ger to get off the bus be­cause it was the end of the line, and the pas­sen­ger at­tacked him.

Brian Kyle Thomas, 22, has been charged with sec­ond-de- gree mur­der.

Fraser’s brother, Dean, fought back tears as he told the crowd Fraser loved driv­ing buses.

“He was taken from us do­ing what he loved,” he said.

“You couldn’t see Jubal with­out a smile on his face and I’m sure he’s smil­ing down on you guys right now for your sup­port.”

Fraser’s widow was hugged and com­forted by many in the crowd. She did not speak at the rally.

Fraser’s death is the first time a Win­nipeg tran­sit driver was fa­tally as­saulted on the job. City of­fi­cials have beefed up se­cu­rity mea­sures in re­cent years by in­stalling cam­eras on buses and hav­ing po­lice ride some routes on oc­ca­sion.

But the Amal­ga­mated Tran­sit Union is call­ing for more, in­clud­ing emer­gency exit doors for driv­ers and a ded­i­cated tran­sit se­cu­rity force.

It also wants pop-up shields that can sep­a­rate driv­ers from danger­ous pas­sen­gers.

“All this ex­ists in Europe,” Cal­la­han said.

“There are shields that are re­tractable — that you hit the but­ton, it ejects the shield.”

The union also wants bus driv­ers to be re­lieved of the task of col­lect­ing fares. Most al­ter­ca­tions stem from a dis­pute over fares, Cal­la­han said, and in many other cities tran­sit in­spec­tors are used to ask pas­sen­gers for proof of pay­ment.

Matt Al­lard, a city coun­cil­lor, said Fri­day he was open to new se­cu­rity mea­sures.

“I’m con­vinced that we need to do more,” he said.

Statis­tics re­leased by the union show there were 60 as­saults on Win­nipeg tran­sit driv­ers in 2015, a jump of 54 per cent from the pre­vi­ous year.

The num­ber went down to 45 as­saults in 2016. Cal­la­han said that’s partly due to un­der­cover of­fi­cers who started rid­ing buses that year and in­ter­vened in some dis­putes.

CP PHOTO

A Win­nipeg bus driver weeps as driv­ers gath­ered to sup­port each other at a rally for Irvine Fraser, who was killed by a pas­sen­ger, and to de­mand safety im­prove­ments on buses out­side city hall in Win­nipeg, Fri­day.

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