Mon, 2009-02-23

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 came out strongly today in support of Ontario MPP Mike Colle’s private member’s bill that would impose a fine of up to $50,000 for anyone carrying a weapon onto a public transit vehicle and prescribe a two-year sentence for anyone who commits an act of violence against a transit employee or passenger. The union and Colle also want the federal government to amend the Criminal Code to provide for longer jail time for transit system assaults.

“We completely support Mike Colle’s initiative and our union will do whatever we can to advance it,” said Bob Kinnear, President of Amalgamated Transit Workers Local 113.

“In recent years there have been several shootings of passengers on the TTC subway and buses, including an 11-year-old girl. It wasn’t that long ago that an Operator, one of our members, was shot in the face and lost his eye and his occupation. In addition, quite a number of our members have seen people on TTC vehicles showing off guns. There should be serious penalties for this.”

Kinnear also said it was “about time” someone proposed stricter sentences for assaulting passengers and TTC employees.

“There are hundreds of assaults against TTC front line employees every year and many of them cause serious and permanent injuries. Assaults against passengers are also on the rise so riders and workers share a common concern.”

More severe penalties, however, are only a first step, Kinnear said.

“Preventing assaults in the first place requires more resources from senior levels of government for greater police presence on the system and the installation of optional plastic shields for operators to deploy when needed.

“So while we hope Mr. Colle’s bill passes and the federal government follows suit, we don’t want governments to think that they have solved this growing problem simply by imposing greater penalties.”

Kinnear added that crime prevention also means more resources for anti-violence and social integration programs. He pointed out that ATU 113 has been one of the largest contributors to the Toronto Argos Foundation’s Stop the Violence program since its inception. The program is aimed at at-risk youth in Toronto, with the participation of several Argos players.

“Our members see the effects of poverty, unemployment and youth alienation up close every day and we want to do our part to help address these social problems.

“We have to have serious penalties for assaulting people and carrying guns in public places but prevention is always preferable to after-the-tragedy punishment.”