KAMLOOPS — Black ribbons are tied to Kamloops buses in memory of a Winnipeg bus driver who was stabbed to death last week.
His death serves as a grim reminder of the dangers transit operators face.
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"That's always on the back of every driver's mind and that brought it to the forefront this last week with what happened in Winnipeg," said Chris Cadarette, health and safety executive chair for the local transit workers union.
Cadarette says drivers participate in customer service training, but faced with mental health issues and agitated passengers, there is only so much training can do.
"You can never get rid of any assault, but we'll be clear: just one assault on operators is one too many."
About half the Kamloops fleet have security cameras on board. The cameras are expected to be installed on every bus within the year. The union is also looking into protective shields for drivers.
"The last thing our drivers want to be is taken away from our passengers," Cadarette said. "We have good interaction with most of them, a lot of great people ride the bus. But, if it comes down to it hopefully it's a shield that would still allow some interaction. You're never going to be able to eradicate all the problems on the bus, I don't even think the shield would do that."
Security measure like cameras and shields act as deterrents, as do stricter penalties. In February 2015 the criminal code was amended to deem the assault of a public transit operator an aggravating circumstance for the purpose of sentencing.
Cadarette says any driver who is assaulted has supports available to them.
"The union's always there for the drivers, as are the company, the city, B.C. Transit, everybody's there for our drivers," Cadarette said. "We have peer-to-peer counselling for our drivers that the union's bargained in and the company's been able to provide, as well as we have EAP, and again the company and the union investigate all incidents together."
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