British Columbia

Bus driver choked by passenger still traumatized, roundtable hears

Transit operators gathered for a roundtable in Burnaby, B.C., Friday to discuss ways to curb violence against transit operators.

Saskatchewan MP wants assault of on-duty transit operators to be factor in sentencing

A B.C. bus driver says she's still traumatized after a passenger violently attacked her three years ago.

Coast Mountain bus driver Lori Jackart was driving a bus in Maple Ridge when a rider attempted to strangle her.

"So much has been taken from me because of this. I will never be the way I was. I have just shut down," she said. "I'm friendly to my passengers but it's very short. I don't smile that much anymore."

Jackart was one of three bus drivers who spoke at a roundtable event in Burnaby, B.C. on Friday, where bus drivers and politicians met to discuss ways to curb violence against transit operators.

She was unable to work for two years, but Jackart says the man who attacked her received nine months probation and is now back riding the bus in Maple Ridge.

"I'm on constant guard. I'm looking at the bus stop guessing, hoping there's nobody that's going to cause any problems," Jackart said.

The union representing bus drivers in the Lower Mainland said incidents are happening more frequently than last year, when an assault was reported every three days.

Saskatchewan Liberal MP Ralph Goodale attended the roundtable to bolster his private members’ bill on the issue.

"To hear their personal experience and I tell you when you hear some of them, they're pretty poignant about what some of the injuries they've suffered and the psychological damage that follows from this," he said.

Goodale described the attacks as an epidemic across the country. In 2011, there were more than 2,000 assaults against bus drivers in Canada.

"This is a non-partisan issue," said Goodale, whose bill aims to make the assault of on-duty transit operators an aggravating factor in sentencing.

"It's something where we're all in this boat together and we can fix this together. And if we develop the political willpower, we can get it done."

Goodale's bill is the fourth private members’ bill dealing with stiffer sentencing for people who assault transit operators. None so far have been successful.

With files from the CBC's Annie Ellison