A private member's bill that would protect front-line transit operators from assault has unanimously passed third reading in the House of Commons.
Bill S-221 will amend the Criminal Code to make it an "aggravating circumstance" that the judge must consider if the victim of an assault is a public transit operator, which is defined to include drivers of city and inter city buses, surface rail, school buses, taxis, ferries and subways.
"Everyone should be safe at work," said Jerry Dias, Unifor national president. "Bus and taxi drivers provide a very valuable public service, and they shouldn't have to face violence in their workplace."
About 2,000 bus driver assaults are reported each year in Canada. Canadian taxi drivers had the highest rate of occupational-related homicide in the country in 2011, higher than police officers.
The amendments to the Criminal Code would include options for stiffer penalties for those convicted of assaulting drivers.
"The impact on their families and industry as a whole is exacerbated by the light sentences the assailants have received in the past," said Mike Mahar, director of the Amalgamated Transit Union Canadian Council. "When this bill becomes law both the public and operators will feel safer, and law enforcement will have the tools they need to impose tougher sentences."
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