The violence is out of control’: Saskatoon transit union talks recent attacks on city buses

By: Brooke Kruger Global News

A Saskatoon transit union said city bus drivers are scared of going to work as attacks and assaults on city transit become more common.

“Our members are afraid,” Darcy Pederson, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 615, said in Saskatoon on Friday. “They are afraid to come to work, they are afraid that something will happen to them at work. All they want to do is go home safe to their families.”

Just in May, Saskatoon police have reported several stabbings on city buses, physical fights and assaults against bus drivers.

Pederson said drivers are also seeing weapons on the buses, bear spray and nightly fights.

The union also expressed concerns in 2023 about increased violence on city buses but Pederson said this is the worst it has ever been

“The level of violence we are seeing on the buses is at a point where the severity of the violence is unlike anything we have ever seen right now.”

He said bus drivers with 10-year careers in Saskatoon are considering leaving their positions out of fear of being assaulted on the job.

Gordon Taylor, executive director at Salvation Army Crossroads, said his clients rely heavily on public transit.

“Hopefully things do turn around and start to turn in another direction,” Taylor said.

He said safety concerns aren’t only a problem in Saskatoon.

“It seems to be the case everywhere you hear about it, every city it’s becoming more of a risk for people,” Taylor said.

Pederson said he is hoping to enforce a “zero-tolerance policy” moving forward that would allow transit to ban violent individuals from using city buses.

“It has more severe penalties for those that are convicted of assaulting someone on the bus,” he said.

A transit support worker system will be beginning on July 1 that will give workers the power to enforce rules and keep order on city buses, according to Pederson.

Transit workers will also be offered more de-escalation and mental healthtraining in addition to the current training in the fall.