Amalgamated Transit Union, Canadian Council

Amalgamated Transit Union, Canadian Council

May 17, 2006 15:35 ET

ATU Applauds Unprecedented Sentence for Assault on Bus Driver

Transit union claims victory after a Winnipeg man receives 26 months in jail for an assault on an ATU Local 1505 driver. Attention: Assignment Editor, News Editor, Government/Political Affairs Editor, Transportation Editor TORONTO, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - May 17, 2006) - After years of seeing people who assault transit workers walk away with little or no punishment a court decision in Winnipeg yesterday has given transit and inter-city bus workers reason to believe that change is on the horizon. Rick Ganton, 46, pleaded guilty to one count each of assault and mischief for a drunken attack on March 16th, 2006, against Winnipeg bus driver Murray Tarvis, a member of ATU Local 1505. Mr. Ganton was sentenced to 26 months in jail for the assault.

"For us it was a victory," said Ken Foster, Director of the Amalgamated Transit Union's Canadian Council. "The judge fully understood what the implications are. Hopefully, it will be a deterrent to others." The ATU's Canadian Council procured the assistance of criminal lawyer, Josh Weinstein, of the Myers Weinberg firm in Winnipeg, to consult on the case.

Ganton was drunk and the lone passenger on the bus when he realized he had missed his stop and started swearing and yelling at Tarvis, said community prosecutor Susan Helenchilde. Ganton became "increasingly agitated" as the bus returned downtown and Tarvis called twice to security for assistance, Helenchilde said. Tarvis had just pulled up at City Hall when Ganton, enraged, charged at Tarvis, pulled him out of his seat and punched him in the face, breaking his glasses. When Tarvis was attacked, he didn't have a chance to take the bus out of gear and activate its emergency brake, endangering the lives of 10 to 15 passengers who had since boarded the bus, Helenchilde said.

Murray Tarvis' determination to see this case through to its resolution combined with the ATU Canadian Council's early and persistent involvement to ensure that it resulted in this unprecedented sentence. When handing down the sentence on the 16th of May, 2006, Judge Glenn Joyal said bus drivers are in a position of vulnerability and deserving of protection. "Bus drivers are at the mercy of whoever gets on the bus ... The only safeguard is the belief the court will respond purposefully and severely."

While this conviction and sentence is a victory in the ATU's campaign against assaults the recent, and vicious, assaults in Vancouver and Edmonton reveal that the battle is far from over. An ATU survey found that 60% of Winnipeg bus drivers reported being physically assaulted on the job. In 2006 alone, there have already been 12 reports of assaults on Winnipeg bus drivers.

Bus drivers have a right to a safe work environment. While some transit properties have taken this issue seriously and taken measures to improve security, share relevant data and work with the ATU, others have exhibited indifference. They will not cooperate with the union in either revealing their statistics on assaults or in taking substantive measures to afford drivers more protection. This has prompted the ATU to conduct their own surveys and research, stage a national conference on violence, create their own assault reporting form, and lobby the federal government for amendments to the criminal code to better protect public transit and inter-city bus workers.

"Irrespective of whether every transit system is on board with the assault issue, we will continue to move forward with those that are and take action to ensure that our members have a safe work place and that when they're victimized through violence the perpetrators will be charged and adequately sentenced" said Foster.

/For further information: Chris Byford, Director of Research and Communications, (416) 679-8846/(905) 371-6029/ IN: JUSTICE, LABOUR, TRANSPORT

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