As It Happens

'There's going to be a death toll out of this': Cree woman files complaint after Sask. bus cuts

Last month, the Saskatchewan government shut down its Crown corporation bus service. A Cree woman in Regina tells As It Happens why she has filed a human rights complaint following that decision.
Connie Deiter, right, has filed a human rights complaint following the Saskatchewan government's decision to cut its bus service. (Left: Jason Warick/CBC, Right: Connie Deiter/Facebook )

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A Cree woman in Saskatchewan has filed a human rights complaint against her government following its decision to cut the provincial bus service.

Connie Deiter worries the loss of service will force Indigenous women to hitchhike — putting them in a situation where she says they could be harmed or possibly killed. 

The Saskatchewan government said it would be inappropriate to comment on the complaint because the matter is before the human rights commission.

An STC bus at the Regina terminal of the Saskatchewan Transportation Company. (Mike Zartler/CBC)
The government shut down the 70-year-old Saskatchewan Transportation Corporation (STC) at the end of May as part of an effort to tackle a $1.3-billion deficit. The government hopes private companies will fill the void.

Connie Deiter spoke with As It Happens host Carol Off on Friday about the bus cuts. Here's a part of that conversation:

Carol Off: Are there any other options? Are there Greyhound buses? 

Connie Deiter: At this point, there is bus services running east and west along the number one by Greyhound. But there are no buses running in any other parts of the province — for instance not even between Regina and Saskatoon.

I work at a safe shelter in Regina and we've got a number of calls from women who are trying to come to some safety in our transition house and are not able to do that because there's no bus service. There's no way for these women to come to the safe shelters. 

CO: What are you hoping to accomplish with your human rights complaint?

We don't want to see empty buses running. But, on the other side, we don't want to see people hitchhiking.- Connie Deiter

CD: I would like to see the province sit down again and do some consultation — perhaps come up with some sort of a plan … maybe, less designated runs between cities. Something that's more in line to their financial concerns.

We don't want to see empty buses running. But, on the other side, we don't want to see people hitchhiking. This is going to be happening. We live in a cold climate and winter is just around the corner. There's going to be people walking. There's going to people hitchhiking. Quite frankly, there's going to be a death toll out of this.

Add to that are the number of people who have been travelling to the major cities for health concerns. I have a First Nations friend who lives in Melville — who is unable to travel to Regina now unless she gets a friend or someone to drive her — who regularly took the bus. She's an independent woman. She likes the idea of paying her own way … and not having to bother someone to give her a ride to get her health needs met.

(Guy Quenneville/CBC)
CO: Have you seen increased numbers of people hitchhiking yourself?

CD: Oh yes. I live in Abernethy, which is about six miles from my reserve. I travel back and forth. I have seen … I think a family standing on the side of the road with a young child hitchhiking. I have seen young men hitchhiking … I have a friend from northern Saskatchewan who has picked up an elder who was hitchhiking with her cane and with her luggage going to visit her family in the south.

All of these people would have been riding the bus instead of hitchhiking. So, for them — people who have no access to a vehicle, who need to see services, who need to get out of their communities — that is an option that they are going to take in order to reach their destination.

CO: Why are Indigenous people, especially women, so much more than others affected by this?

CD: One, we live in poverty. Two, we're being targeted. Of the 61 women that have been missing and murdered here in Saskatchewan, 44 per cent of them were killed by strangers and acquaintances …Certainly they've been killed in residences, but a lot of our women have been killed on roads and highways — who were probably hitchhiking.

With files from Canadian Press

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity. To hear more of our interview with Connie Deiter, listen to the audio above.