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.