Ottawa bus drivers want tougher laws against abuse

Ottawa bus drivers showed up on Parliament Hill Tuesday in support of stiffer penalties for people convicted of assaulting them.

Bus drivers showed support on Parliament Hill to MP pushing private member's bill

Ottawa bus drivers support a Liberal MP who wants the government to be tougher on people convicted of assaulting them. 2:51

Ottawa bus drivers showed up on Parliament Hill Tuesday in support of stiffer penalties for people convicted of assaulting them.

The bus drivers spoke Tuesday afternoon about the abuse they face while on the job and say they support private member's bills put forward in the House of Commons.

John Karagianis, a driver for OC Transpo, was punched by a passenger and ended up with a broken rib. (CBC)

Liberal MP Ralph Goodale's Bill C-533, if passed, would require the courts when imposing sentencing to consider as an aggravating circumstance the fact that the victim was a public transportation employee on duty. NDP MP John Rafferty also has tabled a similar private member's bill, Bill C-531.

Goodale said more than 2,000 bus drivers are assaulted every year in Canada.

"We're not taking the discretion away from the court," said Goodale.

"What we're saying is the judge must consider this as an aggravating factor and take that into account when applying the sentence," he said.

Bus drivers recount death threats, assaults

Ottawa drivers who were at Parliament Hill with Goodale said they feel like targets.

"There are a lot of death threats that go on. I've experienced that. There's spitting that happens. I've been through that too," said John Karagianis, a driver for OC Transpo.

He called security on a passenger earlier this year when a man on his bus was being loud and obnoxious.  The man suddenly started punching Karagianis.

"I was dragged out onto the floor, onto the sidewalk on Bank Street and I ended up with a broken rib, sore back, sore knees, a few cuts and a few bruises also." said Karagianis.

He's still off work going through physiotherapy for his injured back.

Sentences too light, says one driver

"Even now we have a lot of assaults that aren't reported," said Steven Parent, an O.C transpo driver for 25 years.

Steven Parent, an O.C transpo driver for 25 years, said culprits get off with too light of a sentence. (CBC)

Parent was punched in 2009 while driving in the Barrhaven area. The passenger had already been banned from riding buses because of previous assaults on drivers. 

He said the culprit got off too lightly.

"Even the guy that attacked me — 120 days he's back out and he's allowed back on the buses. So, what kind of message does that send," asked Karagianis.

Private member's bills typically do not end up becoming law.

But Goodale said he hopes the government will support his bill as a part of its law and order agenda.