'Jubal didn't have to go this way': Brother of slain bus driver calls for action at funeral

The brother of a Winnipeg bus driver who was stabbed to death on the job last week demands action from Canadian politicians during his eulogy.

Winnipeg Transit driver Jubal Fraser was stabbed to death on the job Feb. 14

Mourners remembered the life of Winnipeg Transit driver Irvine Jubal Fraser at a funeral service in downtown Winnipeg Tuesday. (CBC)

In an emotional eulogy, the brother of a Winnipeg bus driver slain on the job called on politicians in Canada to take action and protect transit workers.

Transit union representatives from across Canada, along with friends, family and members of the public, gathered Tuesday to honour Irvine Jubal Fraser, 58, at Calvary Temple in downtown Winnipeg.

His brother, Dean Byard, spoke as part of Fraser's service. He remembered his brother as the loving husband of wife, Wanda McPhee, as a Toronto Maple Leafs fan and a man who would do anything for his friends.

"Jubal was always smiling, there was one young lady, she just called him Superman. Jubal was everybody's Superman," said Byard.

Toward the end of his eulogy, Byard apologized to McPhee and said he had something else to say.

"You know, you politicians out there, you got a job to do," said Byard.

"Your actions are way too late. Mr. Mayor, Mr. Premier, [federal Public Safety Minister] Ralph Goodale … the time to do something for action is now because my brother's death is not going to be in vain," he said. "Jubal didn't have to go this way."

Pallbearers carry out Fraser's casket following the funeral service at Calvary Temple. (CBC)

Fraser, who was known to friends as Jubal, was killed Feb. 14 after getting to his last stop on Route 170 at the University of Manitoba.

The bus driver asked the sole passenger remaining on the bus to leave multiple times, then a fight broke out and the passenger stabbed Fraser, police said. Fraser later died in hospital and a man arrested nearby was charged with second-degree murder.

On Tuesday, all buses in the city pulled over to hold a moment of silence at 1 p.m. CT to honour Fraser. The vehicles will also change their signs to the message "Rest in Peace 521," for their slain colleague. The number 521 refers to Fraser's badge number.

In solidarity, Thunder Bay Transit and Halifax Transit also observed moments of silence at 1 p.m., and Saskatoon Transit buses are displaying the message Lest We Forget on Tuesday.

Guelph Transit operator and union representative Andrew Cleary was one of the many mourners who attended Fraser's funeral from out of town.

Cleary said he never knew Fraser, but grieved his death along with other employees from public transit agencies in Canada.

"I'm here in support of a fallen comrade," Cleary said.

Anthony Wallace, an employee with the Toronto Transit Commission, described the bond between transit workers as like that of "brothers and sisters."

"One of us hurts, everybody hurts. The whole body of ATU [Amalgamated Transit Union] hurts. We're here to support them the best possible way we can," he said.

Family gather to say goodbye to slain bus driver

6 years ago
Duration 2:04
In an emotional eulogy, the brother of a Winnipeg bus driver slain on the job called on politicians in Canada to take action and protect transit workers.
Fraser is survived by his wife, a son and granddaughter. He and his wife lost their daughter, Kiesha, a few years ago. 

His wife, McPhee, did not speak at the funeral Tuesday, but Fraser's son, Tristan, struggled through tears to address mourners.

"My dad was the best man I knew," he said.

Two GoFundMe accounts in Fraser's name have raised more than $37,000 to help support his family and cover funeral expenses. Colleagues described Fraser as a popular guy who planned to retire next year.

"This was just a working person doing their job," said John Callahan, president of Local 1505 of the Amalgamated Transit Union. 

"It was totally unnecessary for this person to die."

'This should never happen again'

Fraser's death has prompted a discussion about the safety of Winnipeg Transit operators, who say they are frequently the victims of harassment and abuse on the job.

Winnipeg Transit buses display a sign in honour of Fraser, whose badge number was 521. (Lyzaville Sale/CBC)

"It's something that we've been talking about for years already," Callahan said. "I'm hoping that everyone will come together and realize that bus safety for bus operators and the riding public should be a priority."

Before the funeral Tuesday, the union president met with Coun. Marty Morantz (Charleswood–Tuxedo–Whyte Ridge), Winnipeg's chief transportation and utilities officer Dave Wardrop, and Winnipeg Transit's acting director Greg Ewankiw to talk about bus safety.

Callahan has advocated for installing plastic shields around drivers and special emergency exits to the left of the driver's seat. Such a redesign would require financial help from all three levels of government, he said.

"This should never happen again," Callahan said. "The public support has been really huge. It's been overwhelming … I hope the support continues and we have a safer transit system for everybody to enjoy."

With files from Nelly Gonzalez and The Canadian Press