Ottawa

OC Transpo driver spurned harassment complaint, woman says

A woman says an OC Transpo driver told her it wasn't his job to "babysit" after she complained to him about a man harassing female passengers aboard a bus.

Driver said it wasn't his job to 'babysit,' passenger says

The OC Transpo driver's initial disregard was especially shocking in light of the transit agency's recent ad campaign, Kira-Lynn Ferderber says. (Ashley Burke/CBC)

A woman says an OC Transpo driver told her it wasn't his job to "babysit" after she complained to him about a man harassing female passengers aboard a bus.

Kira-Lynn Ferderber, 35, said the harassment began shortly after a man boarded the Route 97 bus near Mackenzie King station on Tuesday morning.

He was swearing and getting more and more agitated, so I was scared.- Kira-Lynn Ferderber

Ferderber, who used to teach sexual violence prevention to staff and volunteers at Ottawa music festivals, said the man began speaking to a woman sitting near the back of the bus, but when she told him to leave her alone the man became agitated and began yelling and swearing.

Ferderber then spoke up, suggesting to the man that if he had a problem, he should go speak with the driver. She said at that point, the man turned on her.

"He was swearing and getting more and more agitated, so I was scared. I was concerned for other people on the bus as well," Ferderber said.

'We need help'

She decided to approach the male driver herself.

"I asked the driver, I said, 'Please come help, this man is screaming at women and calling us bitches," Ferderber said.

"I said to him, 'It is your job to help us, we need help,' and he just repeatedly told me, 'It's not my job, it's not my job to babysit, it's my job to drive the bus.'"

Ferderber said she found the driver's reaction shocking, especially considering the recent "Let OC Transpo Know" campaign, which asked passengers to report incidents including harassment.

Ferderber said the driver eventually agreed to pull over and call transit security, but only after loudly explaining to passengers they would be delayed because of Ferderber's complaint.

'Irresponsible,' advocate says

While they were waiting for security to arrive, several passengers, including the man and woman involved in the original altercation, got off the bus, Ferderber said.

"I don't want to see another PR campaign from OC Transpo about safety unless they are actually giving substantive training and retraining if needed to all of their staff," she said.

Julie Lalonde, director of Hollaback Ottawa, a group that pushed the city to launch the recent safety campaign, said when she read about the incident on social media she was really upset.

"It's irresponsible of OC Transpo to put up signs telling folks if they feel harassed or feel threatened to do a number of things, including notifying the driver, and then for the driver to not respond adequately is incredibly inappropriate," Lalonde said.

She said her group immediately contacted OC Transpo to set up a meeting to discuss bystander intervention.

Julie Lalonde is founder of the Ottawa branch of Hollaback, a group that pushed OC Transpo for two years to launch an online incident reporting system. (Ashley Burke/CBC)

Drivers trained to intervene

Jim Greer, OC Transpo's director of transit operations, said in a written statement that staff are currently conducting "an investigation into this occurrence to ascertain all the facts."

OC Transpo said trainee drivers are taught to monitor passengers aboard their bus, and intervene appropriately.

"Operators are trained on how to respond to a disturbance on a bus, which includes procedures on keeping safety a priority, for staff and customers, and minimizing the possibility of escalation," said Jim Hopkins, OC Transpo's chief safety officer, in a written statement.

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