Online death threat against Winnipeg Transit angers former driver
'Bus is 20 minutes late every single day I will murder the driver next time,' Twitter user tweets at transit
A former bus driver says a violent threat made against Winnipeg Transit online Thursday night is exactly the kind of thing that influenced his decision to leave the profession behind.
"This is a reflection of what drivers face every day on the job," said Steven Choquette, who left Winnipeg Transit last summer after eight years behind the wheel, fed up with being spat on, threatened and assaulted by passengers.
On Thursday night, someone tweeted the following phrase to the Winnipeg Transit Twitter account: "My bus is 20 minutes late every single day I will murder the driver next time just a heads up."
Seeing the threat on Twitter was enough on its own to anger Choquette, but he says Winnipeg Transit's response was also frustrating.
"Thanks for reaching out. We would like to investigate your concern. We have sent you a DM requesting info. Please check at your leisure," the @winnipegtransit account tweeted in response to the threat.
"It floored me," Choquette said. "It shocked me that their response would be so more concerned with the customer service aspect of transit than the safety of their drivers."
Choquette's former colleague Irvine Jubal Fraser was stabbed to death on the job in February. A 22-year-old man was charged with second-degree murder in the case.
Questions about security on transit buses followed Fraser's death. Some operators called for enhanced safety measures, including the installation of barrier shields around the driver's seat and more police officers riding on Winnipeg Transit.
Choquette said more police would help deter people from assaulting drivers, but shields would "only keep the honest people honest."
There have been 16 reported assaults on Winnipeg Transit operators already this year. There were 48 and 62 in 2016 and 2015, respectively.
Choquette said he filed two formal reports of assault on the job during his career, although he says that number is only the tip of the iceberg.
Many drivers experience varying degrees of threats and assaults they never report, Choquette says, because they aren't confident transit officials will have their backs.
"Drivers become so discouraged from reporting these incidents because in each and every instance they're informed that they are the cause of these individuals making the threats or acting out or taking the steps [toward] physical violence," Choquette said.
While a comment on Twitter might not seem like a credible threat to some observers, Choquette says it underscores broader issues of vulnerability and violence transit drivers have to live with.
He doesn't feel Winnipeg Transit took those issues seriously in how it responded to the threat on Twitter.
CBC News reached out to the union that represents transit workers for a response to the tweet but has not heard back.
With files from Bryce Hoye