STM launches internal investigation after alleged assault

Montreal's public transit commission announced today it will be launching an internal investigation following an altercation between an STM employee and a Montreal woman.

Woman says she was punched and told 'Go back to your country'

Montreal's public transit commission announced today it will be launching an internal investigation following an altercation between an STM employee and a Montreal woman.

A disagreement between a passenger and an STM worker Monday resulted in both the passenger and an employee being sent to hospital.

The woman, Mina Barak, 23, alleges the argument escalated to a physical struggle after the employee refused to assist her in English.

Barak wants the worker, whom she says assaulted her and ordered her to 'go back to your country,' charged.

Vice-chair of the STM Marvin Rotrand said a complaint has been filed with police.

Montreal police said they're reviewing surveillance tapes of the incident.

According to Barak, the situation started with a faulty automatic metro fare machine. She attempted to buy two tickets at the de la Savane metro station, but the machine was out of order and took her money.

She said she turned to the clerk in the ticket booth to explain, in English, what had happened.

After a brief exchange, Barak left to use a nearby telephone to lodge a complaint.

According to Barak, when she returned to tell the clerk that she had made a complaint, the employee emerged from booth, put her in a headlock and started to punch her repeatedly.

She said three witnesses, other commuters, stepped in to separate the pair.

Barak was taken by ambulance to the Montreal General Hospital but said she was unharmed except for a bad headache.

The STM clerk is still in the hospital, according to Rotrand. He said last thing he wants is for one of his employees to have an altercation with a client.

Investigation into French-only sign completed

This is the second time in less than a month that a Montreal transit worker has been in headlines over language issues.

"Like any human institution with thousands of thousands of employees, you are always going to have a couple of people ... who have a chip on their shoulder or otherwise discredit everyone else," Rotrand said.

Early in October, a passenger captured a photo of a controversial sign in a Villa-Maria station ticket booth and circulated it online. The sign read, "Au Québec, c'est en français que ça se passe," which roughly translates into "In Quebec, we operate in French."

Rotrand said that while the signage investigation is complete, he can't disclose whether or not the employee was sanctioned.

Rotrand said the STM is not sure why the ticket changer left the booth. "We're not making any assumptions," he said.

Rotrand explained that STM policy instructs employees who don't speak English to find a way to provide information for anglophone clients by offering a pamphlet or calling a manager for help.

Going forward, Rotrand said the STM will review its security tapes and offer any help it can to the police department.