House of Commons Hansard #127 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was cyberbullying.


Assaults Against Public Transit OperatorsPrivate Members' Business

1:30 p.m.


Corneliu Chisu Conservative Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, the legislation would ensure that the sentence would be appropriate to the crime. That is important. The legislation would also act as a deterrent against committing crimes, as people would think twice before committing a crime for which there would be an appropriate sentence.

Assaults Against Public Transit OperatorsPrivate Members' Business

1:30 p.m.


Anne-Marie Day NDP Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, as everyone knows, protecting bus and taxi drivers is a priority for the NDP. These individuals are more vulnerable because they drive longer hours than most people, their profession requires them to be behind the wheel at all times and they always have to deal with the public, which includes people who are nice and not so nice, even criminals. We will be supporting this bill because it makes sense.

The question I have for the member is this: a number of bills have been introduced on this topic, including one sponsored by the member for Burnaby—New Westminster. Why did the Conservatives not move forward on previous NDP bills?

Assaults Against Public Transit OperatorsPrivate Members' Business

1:30 p.m.


Corneliu Chisu Conservative Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I mentioned there were several bills that unfortunately did not pass for various other reasons. However, Bill S-221 would make it an aggravating factor for the purposes of sentencing if the victim of an assault were a public transit operator.

How would this bill accomplish this? The bill would add subsection 269.01 to subsection 269 of the Criminal Code, which would state that when a court imposed a sentence for an offence referred to in any of sections 266 to 269, common assault, assault with a weapon, aggravated assault and assault causing bodily harm, it shall consider as an aggravating circumstance the fact that the victim of the offence was, at the time of the commission of the offence, a public transit operator engaged in the performance of his or her duty and shall give primary consideration to the objectives of the legislation and the tenets of the conduct that formed the basis of the offence.

This bill concentrates on one of the sections of the Criminal Code that deals with aggravated assaults. Therefore, it has a certain purpose, and that is to provide clarity in the Criminal Code.

Assaults Against Public Transit OperatorsPrivate Members' Business

1:35 p.m.


Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I am very happy to speak to Bill S-221, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (assaults against public transit operators). I would like to begin by saying that I will be pleased to support this bill at second reading.

This bill contains two important elements that I would like to focus on today. First, it amends the Criminal Code to consider as an aggravating circumstance the fact that the victim was, at the time of the commission of the offence, a public transit operator engaged in the performance of his or her duty.

I am hardly a Canadian Criminal Code expert, unlike many of my colleagues on both sides of the House who can claim to be. I had no idea what an aggravating circumstance was, so I decided to do a little research to learn more about this.

Here is what Jean-Paul Doucet wrote in Dictionnaire de droit criminal:

An aggravating circumstance is a circumstance attending the commission of a crime or a characteristic of the offender or the victim of the crime. Aggravating circumstances make the crime more dangerous to society and therefore deserving of stronger sanctions.

Section 718.2 of the Criminal Code of Canada addresses sentencing and aggravating circumstances as follows:

A court that imposes a sentence shall also take into consideration the following principles:

(a) a sentence should be increased or reduced to account for any relevant aggravating or mitigating circumstances relating to the offence or the offender...

In this example, the various legislators ordinarily distinguish between the aggravating circumstances associated with the offence and those unique to each offender.

There is a lot of good news in these definitions of aggravating circumstances. First of all, this addition to the Criminal Code ensures that the court dealing with the offences committed against public transit operators will take into account the fact that the victim was performing his or her duties at the time of the offence. This is a major win for the workers covered by this bill.

To illustrate the extreme importance of this aspect, I will provide an example directly related to taxi drivers.

In its 2009 report entitled “Homicide in Canada”, Statistics Canada shows that those most at risk of being killed on the job are police officers and taxi drivers. I will read an excerpt:

On average, 13 victims have been killed each year since 1999 while "on the-job", including 11 in 2009. A recent report concludes that taxi drivers and police officers have the highest rates of homicide per 100,000 persons in their occupation. In 2009, there were three taxi drivers and one police officer killed as a direct result of their profession.

In Canada, 23 taxi drivers were murdered between 1997 and 2011. In Montreal, 68% of nighttime taxi drivers feel that their job is not very safe or not at all safe. That is not even to mention other public transit operators, who are also the target of violence during their shifts.

Next, what I like about the definition of “aggravating circumstances” is that the court must take this new factor into consideration when ruling on an offence, but judges also have the freedom to decide how harsh a sentence to impose. As mentioned in the legislation, every case is different. It is up to our judges to rule on each case.

It is very refreshing to see that people still have confidence in our justice system and that this addition to the Criminal Code does not involve a minimum sentence, which is something the Conservatives unfortunately often include.

I would like to point out another aspect of Bill S-221, which is the scope of the definition of “public transit operator”. I would like to quote clause 2 of the bill:

The following definitions apply in this section.

“public transit operator” means an individual who operates a vehicle used in the provision of passenger transportation services to the public, and includes an individual who operates a school bus.

“vehicle” includes a bus, paratransit vehicle, licensed taxi cab, train, subway, tram and ferry.

The bill covers several different types of jobs that all involve workers who deal directly with the public and who, in some circumstances, can become victims of crime during their work day.

The New Democratic Party has always made it a priority to protect public transit operators. We support the demands made by the associations and unions that represent these operators. For years, they have been calling for better protection for their members.

Unfortunately, several times a year we hear stories about assaults on public transit operators in the media. For example, in April 2013, a thirtysomething bus driver with the Société de transport de Montréal was savagely beaten by three men on his bus while he was driving down Saint-Laurent Boulevard. In November of that same year, we heard of the sad story of Ziad Bouzid, a 45-year-old taxi driver and father of three from Montreal.

Mr. Bouzid, who had driven a taxi for more than a dozen years, was savagely shot to death in the middle of the night, during his shift. These assaults on these workers must stop. As parliamentarians, it is our duty to do everything we possibly can to help them and ensure that these kinds of things do not happen again. That is why the NDP already introduced a number of private members' bills that were similar to the bill we are studying today.

However, I am disappointed to see how the Conservative government goes about addressing an issue as important as workers' safety.

In 2010, the justice minister at the time, now the Minister of National Defence, said that the Criminal Code already adequately protected transit operators from all forms of assault. However, the Amalgamated Transit Union had long been calling for a bill similar to the one before us today.

The Conservatives have not done anything to resolve the problem since they came to power in 2006. Instead of helping workers, they have introduced bills that deny workers the rights they fought so hard to win.

This government has attacked the Labour Code many times. For example, I am thinking about how the definition of the word “danger” is going to be changed because of the Conservatives. This will have a negative impact on many workers, particularly those who have jobs on the front line, such as our correctional officers. It is shameful that the government is seeking to make women and men in uniform more vulnerable.

Like the current government, the former Liberal government did not propose any measures to help public transit operators. It is time for that to change.

This is an issue that is very important to me. For my generation, a job with a public transit company, such as the one in Laval or Montreal, is a promising career opportunity. I am thinking, for example, of my friend Nicolas, who started working for the Société de transport de Montréal a few years ago. He loves his job. He is a happy guy who loves working with people. He has a good, well-paid job with good working conditions. However, his safety can sometimes be compromised by individuals with bad intentions. Nicolas is a young father, and we would be very remiss if we, as parliamentarians, did not do everything we can to protect him better as he carries out his duties at the STM.

The taxi industry is flourishing in cities like Laval and Montreal, and making the work of taxi drivers safer is also very important to my constituents, especially those who live in Saint-François in Laval.

Members may be surprised to learn that many taxi drivers work in Montreal but live in Saint-François, which is in my riding. Saint-François is a lively neighbourhood where more than forty cultural communities live in great harmony.

If you pass by Marcel-Villeneuve Avenue in the morning, you will see taxis leaving Saint-François to take the Pie IX Bridge or Highway 25 to go to Montreal. The drivers will only return late at night after a long day. These men and women work very hard to give their children the best possible future.

I also think of all the school bus drivers in Laval and across Canada. I am sure that they have to deal with all sorts of things over the year. They do an excellent job. I would like to thank them for safely driving our children every day.

It is time for us to take action and I sincerely hope that this bill is passed as quickly as possible.

Assaults Against Public Transit OperatorsPrivate Members' Business

1:40 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased as well to speak to Bill S-221, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (assaults against public transit operators).

I am supportive of the bill which, in summary, would amend the Criminal Code to require a court to consider the fact that the victim of an assault, as a public transport operator, to be an aggravating circumstance for the purposes of sentencing.

The key points related to the bill are that Canadians rely on public transport to get around, yet everyday five bus operators are assaulted. That is simply unacceptable. In this city, as we come into work each morning and go home each night, we see buses rolling along. It cannot be pleasant to go to work if one is worried about being assaulted or even shouted at, as many of them are.

We understand that 2,061 bus drivers were assaulted in 2011, with attacks ranging from being spit on and punched in the head to knife attacks and sexual assaults. That is entirely unacceptable, and this bill would go some distance toward addressing that.

The nature of their work certainly puts bus drivers at heightened risk, so we have an opportunity as parliamentarians to reduce that danger to bus drivers and take action to protect them.

By making it explicit that assaulting a bus driver is a criminal offence with serious consequences, this should, although it would not in all cases, deter these crimes. I would suggest as well that there be some education and notice, whether on buses or in bus terminals, that this is an offence. Maybe it would give people second thought as to whether they would treat bus drivers in an unacceptable fashion.

The Liberals support the bill in general. It is a private member's bill, but we have had discussions on it and there seems to be fairly widespread support in the House for Bill S-221.

I want to name a couple of my colleagues who have done fairly extensive work on addressing the difficulties that bus drivers face when they go to work everyday.

The member for Winnipeg North has spent a lot of time examining public transport in his city and holding discussions with drivers. He even did a ride along. It was truly an eye-opening experience to be with the bus driver and see what drivers faced over quite a number of hours. It is not like getting on the bus and getting off four or five stops down the road. The member for Winnipeg North certainly got a feel for what it was like to be in that workplace on a continuing basis.

Then there is the Liberal long-term member for Wascana, who introduced Bill C-533. The bill would make the nature of a victim's employment as an on-duty transit operator an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes in relation to all Criminal Code offences. I will talk a bit more about the views of the member for Wascana on this matter.

As well, there have been others who have introduced private members' bills related to this issue. There is Bill C-402, which comes an NDP member, and Bill C-637, which comes from an independent member.

Many members in this place are concerned about the issue and have put forward various proposals.

As I said earlier, the member for Wascana put out a blog today. He wrote:

With the support of transit employees, their unions, municipalities and other transit operators, police officers, the Canadian Urban Transit Association and others, I have spent the past year promoting legislation to better protect bus drivers and other transportation workers.

That bill was Bill C-533. Some aspects of that bill are related to and referenced in this piece of legislation.

As he stated in his article today:

These people provide vital services to the general public in all sorts of locations in all weather conditions and at all hours of the day and night. They are often on duty alone, operating powerful vehicles on public streets and thoroughfares. By the nature of their employment, they assume serious responsibilities for public service and safety, and put themselves in a vulnerable position.

He went on to say:

“Bill C-533 had earned broad public support, but remains on the Order Paper of the House of Commons. Such Private Member's Business is selected for debate and a vote by the luck of a draw. Other MPs from all other Parties have also advanced similar proposals from time to time. This is not a partisan issue that divides along political lines”.

A few months ago, a Conservative Senator (Bob Runciman) brought forward his own proposed “bus driver” legislation (Bill S-221).

That is the bill we are dealing with today.

It differs in detail, but is similar to mine in principle. The procedure applying to Senate Bills has allowed S-221 to move more quickly.

That might be something we need to consider here.

It has passed the Senate and is coming before the House of Commons today.

That is what we are debating. I and other members of my party encourage the House to support this piece of legislation.

Bill S-221 is not as broad in proposal as is Bill C-533. As the member for Wascana pointed out:

It applies only to certain specific offences in the Criminal Code, not every offence. And it doesn’t make any reference to persons coming to the aid of a bus driver under attack. On the positive side, it does include a useful definition of “transportation employee” that covers certain others like taxi drivers too.

From the outset, I do not believe many of us consider this legislation to be a partisan proposal or a partisan position. It is useful legislation and should be moved forward through this chamber quickly.

The member for Wascana continued:

Once it becomes law, transit operators need to launch prominent communications campaigns,

—as I said a moment ago—

informing the public that offences against people like bus drivers are serious criminal matters carrying serious penalties. And offenders will be prosecuted.

To come back to where I began, bus driver assaults in any fashion, whether it is language, spitting, or actual assaults, are a serious matter. These people provide a public service. They deserve a safe and secure workplace, and the bill should show that Parliament supports them in their workplace in having a safe environment to work in.

I am certainly pleased to support this legislation.

Assaults Against Public Transit OperatorsPrivate Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Durham Ontario


Erin O'Toole ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today to speak to Bill S-221, a bill that comes to us from the Senate, and to follow up on the remarks from my colleague, the member of Parliament for Pickering—Scarborough East, who introduced the subject to the House.

This is a bill to create as an aggravating factor in sentencing, threats of harm or violence toward public transit workers who get assaulted or threatened in the course of their employment. This would bring in considerations for the court to consider when sentencing an offender who has assaulted or put into a situation of harm someone in the course of doing a job that is a public service.

This would apply to five specific Criminal Code offences and the sentencing that comes out of convictions under those charges. The first would be uttering threats under section 264.1 of the Criminal Code; assault, section 266; assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm, section 267; aggravated assault, section 268; and unlawfully causing bodily harm, section 269.

The maximum penalties in sentencing for these violations of the code range from five to 14 years when proceeding by way of indictment. At the sentencing level, it is clear there is discretion for the court in that range and some of the considerations should be brought to the court's attention when sentencing those offenders.

The aggravating factor would apply when the victim of one of the five Criminal Code offences I outlined was a public transit operator in the course of his or her duties, a duty that is a public service, from the B.C. ferries right through to buses in St. John's, Newfoundland. It is good public policy in that these are already Criminal Code provisions. These are harms our society agrees upon, and agrees that people should be responsible for their conduct and that there should be a penalty. The penalty should consider these aggravating factors in the fact that this is someone performing their duties.

We should remember that transit workers, whether they be TTC in my area, or Durham Region Transit, cab drivers, and others, often work late shifts. In some cases they are 24-hour shifts. Rick, from Clarington Taxi, picked me up at 4:45 this morning, a time when there is potential for harm.

In some areas of the country we have seen that harm inflicted. In fact, between 2005 and 2011, Winnipeg, a city I had the pleasure of living in while I was in the air force, saw a 300% increase in violence inflicted on their transit workers in that city in just those six years.

A cursory review of newspapers just in the last few years would show that this is a national problem. In 2013, there was a very high-profile closed circuit TV assault of a transit operator in Calgary, where the vicious assault could be seen. I think a paramedic was harmed in the same incident. Just this April, in Surrey, British Columbia, a driver was punched in the face when someone was trying to run off on a fare. In Toronto, there was a quite well-known incident at Yonge and Bloor where passengers had to come to the aid of the driver, who was being assaulted.

This is a real issue that has unfortunately been on the rise at a time when we are encouraging people to take public transit. We have to support the men and women who are providing this service to make sure they can do so in a way that is professional and that provides the public good that transit provides.

They know that we, as a government, are saying there should be a harsher sentence when there is violence perpetrated toward these people for no reason other than the fact that they are doing their job.

Senator Runciman, I think, rightly expressed the need for this when he said:

This is a bill that balances Parliament's right to provide direction to the courts in defined circumstances with judicial discretion at sentencing.

As a lawyer, I think it is important for us to talk about these sentencing decisions in a professional way. Courts will arrive at a just decision in terms of innocence or guilt of a crime, and at the sentencing stage, when they are addressing punishment for that crime, they will consider a number of factors—some aggravating factors, some mitigating factors—in determining what type of punishment our society will give, through the court, to the person who commits a crime.

This should be very seriously considered when it is a crime that infringes upon the rights and the personal well-being of another Canadian, particularly someone who has been tasked with a public service role.

I would remind the members of this House that in the early debate, it is clear there is a lot of support for the bill coming to us from the Senate, and my colleague, the member for Pickering—Scarborough East, has outlined some very good cases to show why this bill is in the public good. I would also point members of this place to the Criminal Code, section 718, which outlines the purposes of sentencing. It is important, particularly for some of my friends on the other side, to remember some of the factors in this aspect.

Denunciation of unlawful conduct is a purpose and a principle of sentencing. The promotion of responsibility and acknowledging of harms to victims and their community is also a principle and a purpose of sentencing that the Criminal Code requires consideration of when someone judged to be guilty of an offence under the Criminal Code is sentenced.

One of the other purposes is rehabilitation of the offender. That should always be part of the mix, but in recent years there has been far too much consideration of just that and not enough consideration of the denunciation of conduct that goes against our community and against the public service aspects of the role of a transit worker.

This measure would apply broadly. Having lived and worked in Toronto, I have commuted by TTC and by the 501 streetcar, the famous longest-run single-run streetcar in the world, I believe, along Queen, when I lived in the Beaches neighbourhood of Toronto. This measure would not apply just to your typical driver of a bus, subway, or car. It would also include, specifically, school bus operators.

Further, the bill is very smart in that it would apply to vehicles that are not just typical modes of transport. They would also include paratransit vehicles, licensed taxis, trams, and ferries. That is not an exhaustive list. It would incorporate a number of people who perform these duties.

It is a way that Parliament, in entering into that dialogue with our courts, can show that the public, through Canada's Parliament—which includes the Senate, where the bill comes from, and the House of Commons—denounces this type of crime perpetrated against people we charge with something we consider a public good, public transit. It shows that we denounce that conduct and that we are also trying to deter such conduct. Deterrence is also part of sentencing, as I mentioned, and it is a consideration that should be present any time an offender is sentenced.

I am focusing on denunciation and deterrence as purposes of sentencing because the deterrence aspect can actually help to lead to less crime. It is not the only factor, but it is an important factor, and it is society's way, and Canada's way, to try to discourage and deter crime by imposing a stiffer penalty for such conduct.

What a great way to wrap up before the Thanksgiving break, hearing general all-party support for this important bill. It has been my pleasure to rise today in the House to speak on it, and to particularly thank the transit workers in Durham and the greater Toronto area for the work they do. This is a way we are trying to make sure they know their work is appreciated and they are kept safe.

Assaults Against Public Transit OperatorsPrivate Members' Business

October 10th, 2014 / 2 p.m.


Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak in support of this bill, as many of my colleagues are doing. I think everyone in this House is behind this particular legislation.

I want to share a couple of stories. Suzanne Burgess went to work one day. She was taking a layover break, as they call it, in between her runs. She saw a person going across the way, in a precarious and dangerous way. She opened the window to tell her it was too dangerous to be there.

Unfortunately, what ensued was something that should never have happened. This person barged onto the bus, threatening Suzanne with vulgar language. Suzanne immediately radioed for assistance, and when she hung up she was assaulted by the person grabbing and scraping her face and neck and trying to drag her to the floor.

It took 17 minutes before security could reach her. She mentioned that she was so grateful that another driver heard her screams and came to her assistance.

In testimony she said, “I want to help people, not be afraid of them”. She was basically pleading for us to do our job here to protect her in her workplace.

I will share another example of someone who went to work and was exposed to a horrific scenario, something that should never happen in any workplace.

John Karagiannis went to work as an OC Transpo bus driver. He was threatened by a passenger. He was dragged out onto the sidewalk on Bank Street here. He was beaten up. He had a broken rib. His knees and back were bruised. He had cuts and bruises, as well. He was off work for a long time.

No one should go to work in the kind of environment where they feel threatened. It is important that we understand this.

I am happy to see the Amalgamated Transit Union bringing this issue up. They are the ones who represent their membership, the workers. They have done a good job of documenting this through health and safety committees; they have heard from their bus drivers. They are basically doing what unions should do.

Sometimes the government likes to beat up on unions, for whatever reason, but in this case we should have a sober reflection on the good work that unions do. Unions are there to represent their membership. It is important that we listen to these stories, and to the Amalgamated Transit Union, which has been carrying the flag for this cause. It is saying that no one should go to work feeling threatened or be in a dangerous work environment. It is a basic health and safety issue.

It is about people having the ability to go to work without being threatened. I want to underline that point. This is something that the Amalgamated Transit Union has done good work on. I want to give credit to them, as well as other members of Parliament, who have brought forward private members' bills. In fact, it was back in 2010, when Judy Wasylycia-Leis, my colleague from Winnipeg, brought forward a private member's bill on this, followed by my colleague, our House leader, and presently we have my colleague, the member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River, who has a private member's bill on this issue.

It is not from a lack of trying to bring this forward, but at last we are here. I hope that we do get this passed as soon as possible. What most people would note, and my colleague from Durham enumerated, is that this is not just bus drivers. It is about taxi drivers, people who work on trains, ferries, etcetera, all of those public transportation systems that people rely on.

It is very important because this affects numerous people. When a bus driver is being threatened, it affects the safety of everyone. I have taken the bus many times in Ottawa. Passengers trust that the bus driver is going to keep things calm and is going to ensure the bus is a place of safety.

When the driver's safety is threatened, it actually means everyone else is threatened. I think we have all experienced times when there has been some chaos or commotion on a bus. People look to the bus driver or the transit operator to bring calm to the situation.

Bill S-221 is simply saying that we support those workers who are actually providing that service, and not just for getting us from A to B but for making sure it is done in a civil way. Therefore, I am fully supportive of the bill. It is not overstepping in terms of the parameters for judges in sentencing. It is a rational, smart thing to do.

I will finish by saying that I hope the bill is passed for the Susans and Johns who went through such horrific experiences, which has had an effect on them not just physically but emotionally. As one can appreciate, when something like this happens, there are emotional scars that have to heal. They will be the people we look to as examples of what we hope to never see happen in the future.

What we are trying to do is make sure that workers who go to work every day will not be threatened. After all, if the bus driver, train conductor, cab driver, or the person conducting the ferry does not feel secure, then there is insecurity for the public.

I am delighted to get behind the bill, as are many of my colleagues. I look forward to it passing as speedily as possible. To that end, I thank all those who have brought this to our attention. I really want to cite the Amalgamated Transit Union here in Ottawa for doing great work.

Assaults Against Public Transit OperatorsPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.


Corneliu Chisu Conservative Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleagues for their support of this bill. Let us continue to work together to make this bill law as soon as possible, following the procedures of the House.

Again, I am thankful for the great support for the bill. Let us make the men and women working in public transit safe, as they deserve to be.

Assaults Against Public Transit OperatorsPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Assaults Against Public Transit OperatorsPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

Some hon. members



Assaults Against Public Transit OperatorsPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Assaults Against Public Transit OperatorsPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


Assaults Against Public Transit OperatorsPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

All those opposed will please say nay.

Assaults Against Public Transit OperatorsPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


Assaults Against Public Transit OperatorsPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, October 22, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

Before adjourning, and on behalf of the Speaker, I would like to wish honourable members, clerks, pages, interpreters and all employees of the House a happy Thanksgiving.

It being 2:15 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Monday, October 20, 2014, at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Orders 28(2) and 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2:15 p.m.)