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Transit association says more police, security needed on city buses, trains

27 recommendations made to improve safety on public transit in wake of recent violence
Metro Vancouver Transit Police and Surrey RCMP investigate after the third stabbing on the city’s transit in as many weeks earlier this month. (Shane MacKichan photo)

Cities need to hire more security officers for their transit systems and give them more power to curb dangerous behaviour on trains and buses, the Canadian Urban Transit Association said Monday as it published a list of recommendations to respond to a recent spate of violent attacks on public transit.

The association made 27 recommendations to improve rider and staff safety on public transit, including a demand to hire more on-the-ground peace officers, special constables, and police officers.

“It’s obvious, I think, to Canadians that we’ve got to address this issue,” said association president Marco D’Angelo.

He said the federal government should also amend the Criminal Code to include specific offences against all transit workers, not just transit operators.

The recommendations emphasized that public transit systems reflect the communities they serve and that issues such as homelessness, substance use, and mental health impact transit systems when left unaddressed.

The Canadian Urban Transit Association began its report on how to improve public safety last summer but the desire to do something has only been heightened by more violent attacks on transit over the winter in multiple cities.

This month in British Columbia, a 17-year-old boy riding public transit was fatally stabbed near Vancouver and a man on a Surrey-area bus was left with life-threatening issues from a throat slash.

In Alberta, an Edmonton-area man was stabbed while waiting for a bus, and in Calgary one person was sent to hospital after a daytime shooting on a bus travelling in the city’s downtown.

In late March, 16-year-old Gabriel Magalhaes was stabbed to death at a Toronto subway station. Toronto police said he was the victim of an “unprovoked” attack.

He was at least the fourth person to die in a violent attack at a Toronto subway station in the previous 12 months. Several more were seriously injured in stabbings and assaults. In at least one case a woman was pushed onto the tracks.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, who was in Toronto to make a funding announcement to buy electric buses for the Toronto Transit Commission, said “these recent acts of violence on the TTC are concerning to us all.”

“The TTC is the lifeblood, the circulatory system of the city, and we need to do more to ensure the safety of the great people who work for the TTC and literally keep our city going.”

She pointed to government funding to address poverty, mental health and addictions as another way transit safety can be improved.

“But it’s not enough, and we need to do more,” she said.

—David Fraser, The Canadian Press

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