Winnipeg bus drivers warmed by letters, greetings after colleague killed on job

Days after a colleague was stabbed to death outside of his bus, Winnipeg Transit drivers are being showered with well wishes from passengers.

'It’s helped a lot to bring our members through this,' union president says

An outpouring of support from the public has really helped Winnipeg Transit drivers in the wake of the fatal attack on Irvine Fraser, says union president John Callahan. (CBC)

Days after a colleague was stabbed to death outside of his bus, Winnipeg Transit drivers are being showered with well wishes from passengers.

"It's a real outpouring of support from the riding public. It's helped a lot to bring our members through this," said John Callahan, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union in Winnipeg.

Irvine Fraser, 58, died Tuesday after he was attacked on the University of Manitoba campus. (Facebook)
Many people have expressed condolences and some drivers say they've received handwritten notes, Callahan said.

It's a welcome break from the anxiety and sorrow many drivers have felt since 58-year-old Irvine Fraser was stabbed multiple times at the last stop on his shift early Tuesday morning.

Brian Kyle Thomas, 22, is charged with second-degree murder, possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose and failure to comply with a probation order.

Fraser, who went by his middle name, Jubal, was considering retiring as early as next year, Callahan said. He also had swapped away his Valentine's Day shift so he could be with his family.

"He never got the opportunity to do that," Callahan said.

While the support from the public has helped comfort many drivers, there is still heightened concern about their vulnerability. It's a fear that has rippled through their family members, as well.

"A couple of bus operators are telling me their wives are telling them to look for other work. It's become too dangerous," said Callahan, who spoke with drivers Wednesday night at the transit garage in Fort Rouge.

"Another operator told me about how his kids said goodbye to him and they never say that. Now they wonder, is their parent going to come home from work?

"It's really hit home for a lot of our operators."

Rally planned for Friday

The Amalgamated Transit Union is holding a rally Friday morning in front of city hall on Main Street to honour Fraser and call for improved safety measures on buses.

The union's national president, Paul Thorpe, is scheduled to be there, as well as presidents from other locals across the country.

"Unfortunately this brutal murder is not an isolated incident. Countless numbers of transit workers are assaulted in many ways every year. Most are the result of a fare dispute, but an alarming number happen just because someone wants to do violence to a bus driver.

"Transit workers cannot go to their job, and passengers can not travel on public transportation in fear of being attacked and assaulted," a statement from Amalgamated Transit international president Larry Hanley said on the union website.

"ATU demands that transit agencies and government officials bring the same sense of regret that they will display in the public mourning of this tragic, unnecessary death of our brother to the ongoing discussion about preventing these attacks from occurring."