Millions of Canadians use public transport on a daily basis to commute and travel. Despite most journeys being hassle-free, it is comforting to think that, should something happen to you on public transit, the driver or staff would be there to support you if necessary. However, this was not the case when an Ottawa bus driver ignored harassment on board, according to one passenger who says she was verbally abused on an OC Transpo bus in Ottawa.
Kira-Lynn Ferderber, who is 35, is accusing an Ottawa bus driver of failing to provide adequate help and support to her and another woman when a man started to harass them on a Route 97 bus. According to Ferderber, the driver simply told her that it wasn’t his job to get involved, and said it wasn’t his duty to “babysit.”
Ferderber told CBC the abuse began when a man boarded the bus near Mackenzie King station in Ottawa, on Tuesday morning. He started speaking to another woman on the bus, who eventually asked the man to leave her alone. This reportedly upset the man greatly, and he began to shout and swear at the woman. When Ferderber intervened, the man targeted her too, swearing and yelling at her. It was then that Ferderber said she felt she needed the driver’s help.
She told CBC News, "I asked the driver, I said, 'Please come help, this man is screaming at women and calling us bitches." However, she did not receive the response she was anticipating, as the driver is alleged to have simply told her, “It's not my job, it's not my job to babysit, it's my job to drive the bus."
Reports suggest that the driver did eventually agree to pull over the vehicle and call security, but not before loudly explaining to the passengers that Ferderber would be responsible for any delays. During the wait for security to arrive, several passengers, including the man and woman involved in the original altercation, got off the bus, Ferderber said.
Ferderber notes that she is particularly highly critical of the reaction from the driver, as the recent "Let OC Transpo Know" campaign specifically asked passengers to report any incidents on public transport, including harassment. She told CBC News, "I don't want to see another PR campaign from OC Transpo about safety unless they are actually giving substantive training and retraining if needed to all of their staff."
In a written statement OC Transpo's director of transit operations said that trainee drivers are taught to monitor passengers aboard their bus, and intervene appropriately. The statement also noted that staff are currently conducting "an investigation into this occurrence to ascertain all the facts”.
Jim Hopkins, OC Transpo's chief safety officer, told CBC, "Operators are trained on how to respond to a disturbance on a bus, which includes procedures on keeping safety a priority, for staff and customers, and minimizing the possibility of escalation."
That said, in a series of tweets describing the incident on her personal Twitter, Ferderber noted, “It's interesting to me that OC Transpo told the Citizen they are "conducting an investigation to ascertain all the facts", because they haven't asked me anything.”
In a written statement to Narcity, Jim Greer, Director of Transit Operations, said: "OC Transpo’s bus operators are trained on how to respond to a disturbance on a bus, which includes procedures on keeping safety a priority, for staff and customers. When a disturbance occurs on a bus, the Operator is to call the Transit Operations Control Centre (TOCC) to advise them of the situation, provide their location, and request assistance. The Operator should then find a safe location to bring the bus to a stop and wait for assistance from a Transit Supervisor and/or the Special Constable Unit. The Operator will then open the doors of the bus to allow passengers to exit."
He continued, "Staff are currently conducting an investigation into this occurrence. Based on the information received at this time, the Operator on Route 97 followed the protocol by calling the TOCC for assistance, pulling over safely at Mackenzie King Bridge and allowed customers to exit the bus. Both a Transit Supervisor and a Special Constable arrived within minutes of the call but by the time they arrived, the people involved in the disturbance had left the bus."*
*Editor's Note [Jul. 10, 2019 at 4:17 PM ET]: This article has been updated to include recent comments.