City tasks former bus drivers with security on buses

The City of Winnipeg has decided to hire former Winnipeg Transit drivers to provide security for both operators and passengers on city buses.

Union representing Transit employees would rather see Bear Clan in charge of on-board security

Winnipeg Transit recognizes slain operator Irvine Jubal Fraser in 2017, whose badge number was 521. On Thursday the city announced plans to put five former drivers on bus to provide security. (Lyzaville Sale/CBC)

The City of Winnipeg has decided to hire former Winnipeg Transit drivers to provide security for both operators and passengers on city buses.

In a release Thursday the city says the five inspectors — described as "highly trained" former drivers "uniquely positioned to be a resource for both operators and passengers" — will start immediately.

The move follows recommendations made in a report to council triggered by the February 2017 killing of driver Irvine Jubal Fraser and subsequent calls by the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505 for improved worker safety.​

'My fellow brother was murdered for doing his job'

7 years ago
Duration 1:08
Winnipeg Transit drivers say they're upset and frightened for their safety after a driver was stabbed to death overnight. 58 year old Irvine Fraser was at his last stop at the University of Manitoba around 2am when there was an altercation with a passenger. A 22 year old suspect is in custody.

The release says the inspectors will help passengers with transit-related information and are enforcement officers for Public Transit By-laws.

Fraser was stabbed on the job on Feb. 14, 2017, at the University of Manitoba's Fort Garry campus. His death led the city to usher in a package of transit-safety improvements that include the testing of new bus shields, the expansion of on-board surveillance systems and $590,000 in annual funding for some form of on-board security presence.

Irvine Fraser, 58, died after he was attacked on the University of Manitoba campus February 2017. (Facebook)

Until Thursday the question was whether the new security complement would be comprised of members of the Winnipeg Police Service, brand new Winnipeg Transit security workers or private security workers.

The decision was made by the city's transit advisory committee (TAC) — a body created in the wake of Fraser's death.

According to Thursday's release, the TAC is also recommending Transit start talks with police about the Bear Clan's possible involvement in future safety initiatives and the possibility of equipping its inspectors with vests and providing additional training.

Decision not union's top choice

The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505 president Aleem Chaudhary previously told CBC News it would prefer to see police officers providing security on buses.

But after Thursday's announcement Chaudhary said the Bear Clan would be have been the better choice.

"They're trained for it and we believe they'll do a much, much better job because they understand — they're sensitive to the people with addictions problems or psychological — they can handle it much better because they're street-trained," he said.

"Whereas as soon as a supervisor comes on a bus, they have no respect whatsoever … the Bear Clan, they know the people, they know how to talk to the people [and] they know how to de-escalate situations."

Barriers around bus drivers, private transit cops could be legacy of Jubal Fraser killing

6 years ago
Duration 1:37
Winnipeg Transit wants to test out barriers around drivers, expand its video surveillance system and hire a small private security force to better protect its staff and customers.

Chaudhary also said five inspectors won't be enough protect passengers and drivers, pointing to an assault he says happened to a Transit supervisor Thursday morning.

He says the supervisor had removed a man from a bus around 11:30 a.m. when the passenger turned and pushed the supervisor up against the bus.

"It's totally outrageous and I think it's not going to have any effect for our operators or our passengers as far as security goes," he said.

He says the union has started talking with the Bear Clan about the possibility of working with the group for security.

"I envision that they would be able to put about 40 people out in a day … on different routes and jumping from bus to bus," he said, adding he'd ultimately like to see police and Bear Clan members working together on bus safety. 

"To be honest with you I think the two of them together would be a wonderful thing for our city."

Councillor Matt Allard, who's in charge of the public works committee and sits on the Transit Advisory Committee, told CBC News transit inspectors are a more efficient use of $590,000 than Winnipeg Police Officers.

With files from Bartley Kives and Susan Magas