Most people don't expect to be spat on, kicked or punched while at work, but for Canada's bus drivers, these attacks are all too common.
That's why bus drivers' unions and Liberal MP Ralph Goodale gathered in Burnaby for a roundtable discussion about violence against bus drivers on Friday. The Saskatchewan MP currently has a private member's bill before Parliament, calling on judges to consider harsher sentences for attacks on bus drivers, and he's holding roundtable discussions across Canada, gathering input from bus drivers and spreading the word about his bill.
"I think the legislation I proposed for the House of Common is on the right track, and the matter is important and urgent," Goodale told the NOW.
Private member's bills rarely become law, yet Goodale thinks his bill has a good chance of passing.
"This one is truly non-partisan," Goodale said. "There is clearly a consensus this is good public policy."
Nathan Woods, president of the Canadian Auto Workers Local 111, attended the roundtable and would like to see Goodale's bill passed.
"Ralph was able to talk about how this was a non-partisan issue and that the government could pick this bill up and pass it at the end of the day," he said.
According to the Canadian Urban Transit Association, 2,061 bus drivers from across the country reported being assaulted in 2011.
Woods spoke of some of the violence bus drivers have faced, including sexual assaults, spitting, physical attacks and verbal abuse.
"I opened up my email today, and there was another driver spat upon," he said. Wood also spoke of bus driver at the roundtable who had been spat upon by a person who was HIV positive, and how that driver and his family spent a year in torment, worried he may have contracted the virus. Another female bus driver working in Port Coquitlam was choked so badly her voice box has permanent damage.
"We have a sexual assault case against a transit operator, and the courts were lenient to the assailant, because the perpetrator had a physical disability," he added.
According to Woods, assaults on bus drivers are also a public safety issue, as attacks sometimes take places while the bus is moving.
"That's a 10-tonne, moving death box. There are pedestrians, passengers, motorists all at risk because of a moving coach," he said.
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