British Columbia

Greyhound cuts raise concerns for vulnerable women in rural B.C.

The elimination of Greyhound bus services in Western Canada has the B.C. Society of Transition Houses concerned for the wellbeing of women fleeing abuse.

Those fleeing violence and seeking essential services are now without access to affordable transport

Greyhound's announcement meant that more than 350 locations across Canada would lose service. (David Donnelly/CBC)

The elimination of Greyhound bus services in Western Canada has the B.C. Society of Transition Houses concerned for the wellbeing of women fleeing abuse.

At the beginning of the month, Greyhound announced that it would be cutting all bus services across Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Northern Ontario, except for one route between Vancouver and Seattle.

The B.C. Society of Transition Houses is concerned the consequent lack of access to affordable transportation in rural areas will make it much more difficult for women in Northern B.C. to flee an abusive environment.

"My heart really sank," said Joanne Baker, the society's executive director.

"What I fear is that women and children are left more vulnerable to violence because their options for leaving are so limited," she told All Points West host Jason D'Souza.

Regular bus service had already been sparse in the north of the province, leading many to hitchhike, she said. Hitchhiking has led to the deaths and disappearances of many women across the province, most notably along Highway 16, the route also known as the Highway of Tears.

Access to services

Greyhound's withdrawal from Western Canada also creates additional barriers for rural and remote communities who need to travel to access medical appointments, legal council or other essential services that aren't available in smaller centres. 

"When you think about what sort of society we want to live in, what kind of service structure we want to have, I would encourage us all to think that transport is an essential service, it's not a luxury," Baker said.

Transportation ministers from the affected provinces are meeting to address the issue, according to B.C. minister Claire Trevena.

"This is a Canadian problem. We have everything west of Sudbury [Ont.] with no real ground transportation. We rely, particularly in B.C., on long-distance coaches but we're seeing it right across the country… Nothing is off the table as far as I'm concerned," she told On The Coast host Gloria Macarenko.

'Strength in numbers'

Premier John Horgan addressed the service cancellations during a tour at the British Columbia Institute of Technology in Burnaby on Monday.

"We were aware that they were in distress and that ridership was down, but at no time was it appropriate for us as a government to step in and give them a hand up, particularly when we had the same story unfolding in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and half of Ontario… This is a crisis of transportation in Western Canada and we're going to deal with it that way," Horgan said.

Baker is hopeful that the leaders of the affected provinces will be able to address the lack of accessible transportation.

"I really hope there's a lot of creativity and political will to do something about this… I think there's strength in numbers," she said.

To hear the full interviews listen to media below:

With files from All Points West, On The Coast

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