Ottawa – Mayor Jim Watson today announced his support for Bill C-533, recently tabled by the Member of Parliament for Wascana, Honourable Ralph Goodale, as well as Bill C-402 presented by the Member of Parliament for Burnaby—New Westminster, Peter Julian. The bills are focused on addressing assaults on transit operators by amending the Criminal Code to make assault of on-duty transit operators an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes. Mayor Watson will work with Transit Commission Chair Diane Deans to table a motion at the next City Council meeting on November 13 to formally support the federal bills.

“Our transit operators have chosen to serve the public by getting us home safely – they deserve to be respected and to have a safe work environment,” said Mayor Watson. “I am pleased that ATU Local 279 is supporting the legislation. I hope my Council colleagues will join me in supporting this bill in an effort to improve safety for our operators and passengers.”

Mayor Watson shares Mr. Goodale’s view that assaulting a transit operator is especially serious because it also puts riders at risk. According to Mr. Goodale, this principle has already been expressly recognized by Canadian courts as a basis for imposing a higher penalty with the objective of specifically denouncing and deterring such conduct. Across Canada, 2,061 bus drivers were assaulted in 2011, with attacks ranging from being spat on and punched in the head, to knife attacks and sexual assault. Locally, OC Transpo recorded 59 incidents of violence against drivers in 2012.

Ensuring the safety and security of its customers and employees is a paramount priority for OC Transpo and is integral to the business of providing safe and reliable transit service. In August, the Transit Commission rolled out a 10-point safety action plan, which includes an expanded Night Stop program and several public awareness efforts. Further, vehicles are equipped with safety features such as emergency phones, a Transitway surveillance system with over 400 closed-circuit TV cameras, passenger assistance alarms and direct radio links between operators and the OC Transpo control centre.