Arrest of scissor-wielding man on Winnipeg bus prompts transit union to call for help
Police used Taser to subdue man on Winnipeg Transit bus Wednesday
The union representing Winnipeg Transit workers says quick thinking by a driver may have prevented an injury, or worse, after a man armed with a pair of scissors threatened passengers and tried to stab a bus driver on Wednesday.
Officers responding to the incident had to use a Taser to subdue the 29–year–old man before arresting him, the police service said in a Thursday news release.
The bus was parked at Portage Avenue and Arlington Street at about 5 p.m., when police responded to a call about an aggressive man armed with scissors on the bus. All of the passengers had safely escaped, but the driver was left on the vehicle with the man.
According to the local head of the Amalgamated Transit Union, the driver escaped injury by using part of a protective shield for cover.
"The operator was smart enough, or quick enough, to be able to take the shield door and block the aisle," said ATU Local 1505 president Aleem Chaudhary. "When he blocked the aisle, he was able to block the assailant from coming to him and be able to stab him."
The 29-year-old man arrested faces charges of assault with a weapon and possession of a weapon.
The incident has the transit union — which is currently in a legal strike position and locked in a bitter contract dispute with the city —calling for more psychological supports for drivers.
The union has flagged safety as a growing concern for drivers in recent years following high-profile violent incidents involving employees, including the stabbing death of driver Irvine Fraser in 2017.
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"We want to be able to have a system where other operators … are trained to be able to help these people right after serious incidents like this occur," Chaudhary said.
The union president says the driver was not offered that kind of assistance following Wednesday's incident, and the union is pushing for such supports in negotiations with the city.
"He was not given the kind of support he needed — he deserved," Chaudhary said. Some type of assistance is supposed to be available through Winnipeg Transit to drivers, but in practice, that often doesn't happen, he said.
"Unfortunately the management is in a different world — they live in a different world than our passengers and our operators do," Chaudhary said.
Supports in place: city
The City of Winnipeg says the type of assistance Chaudhary is calling for already exists.
"Winnipeg Transit has a number of supports in place to assist employees who have been involved in an incident," a spokesperson in an email.
"One such example is the Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) program, which is designed to provide assistance and support to on-street personnel after an incident occurs. The program is confidential, and offers volunteer peer-based support."
The city says transit supervisors are immediately dispatched to incidents and are trained to "recognize the signs of stress and initiate psychological first aid from a peer supporter."
Staff are also able to access free, confidential, voluntary, professional counselling services, the city said, which are available to employees and immediate family members around the clock.