Legislation could be in place by Christmas to amend the Criminal Code and deter assaults against bus drivers.
Liberal MP Ralph Goodale is pushing for Bill C-533, which makes assaulting an on-duty bus driver an aggravating factor during sentencing.
“What the bill essentially says is when the judge has found the defendant to be guilty and has come to the point of imposing a sentence, the judge must take into account the nature of the victim’s employment,” thereby justifying a stronger sentence, said Goodale at Parliament Hill Thursday.
OC Transpo driver John Karagianis would’ve liked a harsher penalty for his assailant.
Karagianis was dragged off a bus and beaten on April 22.
Paul Ness, 38, made a plea deal and was handed a suspended sentence last week, evading jail time.
The sentence has damaged Karagianis “even more. It just made him feel that he was worthless, and he’s having a hard time coming back to work,” said Amalgamated Transit Union Local 279 president Craig Watson.
“He’s suffering through the stress of this. It’s just unfortunate.”
Last year there were 59 violent incidents aimed at OC Transpo drivers, and the issue is widespread across Canada.
Earlier this week, Winnipeg Police released footage of a vicious beating on a city bus after a driver refused to give a transfer to a passenger who didn’t pay the fare.
“If you get assaulted on the job, your life changes forever,” said Watson.
“Just a little bit of respect; it could come from the courts showing that our life and our job is worth something. (It) would mean so much to the operators when this occurs.”
Goodale said assaults on drivers are happening in Regina, Kelowna, and Burnaby, BC as well as major cities such as Toronto.
“It is a problem that affects us nationally. My proposal is not a panacea, it wouldn’t make the problem go away, but I think it would make it possible for society to deal with the consequences far more efficiently if the Criminal Code were amended in the way that I’m proposing,” he said.
The motion is garnering support at City Hall.
Mayor Jim Watson is all for stiffening penalties for thugs who rough up operators.
The mayor said he’ll work with transit commission chairwoman Diane Deans to table a motion on Nov. 13 formally supporting the proposed federal legislation.
— files from Jon Willing
OC TRANSPO DRIVERS BEATEN
Sept. 9, 2013: A 17-year-old boy is charged in connection with the assault of a 53-year-old Route 99 driver on July 26 around 10:45 p.m. The “spare” driver was running 15 minutes late and had his nose broken by the passenger.
Apr. 22, 2013: John Karagianis is dragged off his bus and attacked on Bank St. He suffered a broken nose and rib, and is still recovering.
Mar. 26, 2013: Norm MacDuff was sucker-punched more than once by a passenger who boarded a bus at South Keys shopping centre around 11:30 p.m. with what MacDuff believed was an expired transfer. MacDuff refused to return to work and filed a complaint with the federal government alleging his workplace didn’t meet safety standards outlined in the federal labour code.
— A total of 59 in 2012.