Assault charge after violent dispute over bus fare
The Canadian Press
Published Friday, August 5, 2016 5:45PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, August 5, 2016 6:19PM EDT
WINNIPEG -- The union representing bus drivers in Winnipeg says a fare dispute this week where the driver appeared to fight back after being spat on shows the need for different ways to collect money from passengers.
John Callahan, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505, said there were about 60 assaults on operators in Winnipeg last year and two thirds were a result of fare disputes.
Callahan said other cities have taken the job of fare collection away from drivers and instead use transit inspectors, who in some cases check fares by using electronic readers to scan passengers' smart cards.
"This operator himself told me, as many operators have told me when they've been spit on, they'd rather be punched or slapped than spat on," Callahan said.
"They say it's the lowest of the low. And in this case when this happened to this operator he saw red and wanted to get hold of this guy and detain him for police."
A video posted online that appears to have been shot by someone on the bus begins with a man appearing to spit on the driver, who is behind the wheel.
As the man turns to leave through the front door, the driver leaps from his seat, pursues him outside and attempts to tackle him. They struggled and the man attempted to grab the back of the driver's head, knocking off his sunglasses.
The driver swings and misses, but eventually gains the upper hand and the man falls to his knees.
Police said the driver wasn't hurt and the man was held by a second bus operator and two passengers until police arrived.
Matthieu Joseph Fortier, 29, is charged with assault. The driver was not charged.
Callahan said the driver was in the union office Friday morning for help filling out his report on the incident. Tests on the driver for infectious diseases have been done, Callahan said.
"A punch, you've got a bruise and it heals. With a bodily fluid, there's always the fear, 'did that get in my eye? Did it get into my mucus membrane?' It's something that plays in the back of your mind," Callahan said.
"After the fact you could look back and say, (the driver) should have disengaged. But you know, hindsight is 20/20," Callahan said, again noting how much drivers hate being spat on.
"They just find it to be absolutely disgusting, very degrading."
Winnipeg Transit says all of its operators have participated in assault prevention training and that it continues to study new security methods and technologies.