Indigenous man says he was wrongly accused of being drunk, kicked off Greyhound bus
Jeff Lagerquist, CTVNews.ca
Published Sunday, May 28, 2017 10:04PM EDT
An indigenous Manitoba man says he was forced to spend a frigid night wandering along the side of a highway after a Greyhound bus driver accused him of being intoxicated and left him stranded at a gas station.
Barry Spence, 41, has become a regular on Greyhound’s Thompson to Winnipeg line. Diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes at 21, his condition has left him with just five per cent kidney function. He makes the 10-hour trek to Winnipeg every week to keep up with his medical appointments.
Last weekend's journey was more taxing than usual. Spence said he felt extremely sick, making frequent trips to vomit in the bus’s bathroom. Five hours into the trip, he got off to throw up in a gas station washroom in Grand Rapids, Man. As he staggered back towards the bus, the driver told him he would not be allowed back onboard.
“The bus driver stopped me and said, ‘You’re not going back onto this bus.’ I said, ‘Why?’ He said, ‘You’re drunk.’” Spence told CTV News. “I said, ‘I’m not intoxicated.’ He said, ‘Nope. The cops are coming here to pick you up and they will handle it.’”
In a statement to CTV News, Greyhound said it has a zero tolerance policy for unruly or disruptive customers, including those who appear to be intoxicated on a bus. Spence said he did not interact with other travellers, aside from passing them on his way to the bathroom.
“Our initial response upon observing the customer's behavior was to follow our policy and contact the RCMP to remove the customer,” the company said. “After further investigation, it appears the customer may not have been intoxicated and may have been experiencing a non-alcohol related issue.”
RCMP said they were dispatched to investigate a disturbance on the bus, but no charges were laid. Spence said the officers determined that he had not been drinking and explained this to the bus driver to no avail.
“I felt like they were being racist towards me. He (the driver) called me a drunk. Why am I a drunk? Because I am native? Not all natives are drunks. I don’t drink,” Spence said.
Spence said he pleaded with the police for help, asking if there was a way to get a ride or find some place to get away from the cold.
“They said there was nothing around here. I said, ‘What should I do?’ They said, ‘Your best bet is to start walking,’” Spence recalls.
Cold, tired, and sick, he says he started marching along the highway in the middle of the night, following the advice of the officers to keep to as far right as possible to avoid being hit by a car.
He was not alone for long. Spence says at one point he was being followed by a pack of dogs.
“I just kept calm, and kept walking and eventually the dogs left me alone,” he said.
Utterly out of options, Spence said he made a desperate call to his mother on his cell phone around 4 a.m. She started calling anyone she thought could help, local cabs, and a hotel. No answers.
Spence said paramedics picked him up near the highway around 5:30 a.m. and drove him to the local nurses’ station. He says he waited for the nurse to arrive only to be told that his emergency was not severe enough to warrant an ambulance trip to hospital.
He went back to the highway where he said a priest his mother called found him on the verge of dehydration and hypothermia around 8 a.m.
The ordeal has left Spence feeling helpless. He said the RCMP did not encourage the bus driver to let him back onboard after they determined he was not intoxicated. The driver, he said, would not give him his name.
Greyhound said it will continue to look into what happened.
“They should compensate me. I was scared for my life,” he said.
With a report from CTV’s Jill Macyshon in Winnipeg