Transit violence in Metro Vancouver reaching "crisis levels": Union

Apr 17 2023, 4:36 pm

The president of a union representing many TransLink Employees says violence on Metro Vancouver transit has reached an unacceptable level and staff needs more tools to address the problem.

Tony Rebelo, president of CUPE 7,000, says employees are focused on providing a safe environment for passengers, but they don’t have the tools or training to deal with violent offenders riding the region’s trains and buses.

“The increase in violence on public transit is reaching crisis levels,” he said in a statement.

He’s imploring local and provincial governments to act to mitigate “these senseless acts of violence” and keep both staff and riders safe.

Rebelo’s words come after a string of violent attacks on transit this month.

On April 1, a man’s throat was slashed by a stranger on a Surrey bus, and the suspect is facing terrorism charges.

Ten days later, 17-year-old Ethan Bespflug was stabbed to death on another bus in Surrey. Police say the attack was targeted, but not related to gang violence.

The same week, a victim was sent to hospital after a serious assault on a bus in the Downtown Eastside.

The union representing bus drivers in West Vancouver also called for better protections after a bloody assault aboard a bus on April 12.

This month a young man was also sent to hospital after being stabbed on a SkyTrain in Surrey.

“As transit workers, we are deeply disturbed by the horrific events that have occurred in our Lower Mainland transit system recently, and our hearts go out to all the families and victims of the violence,” Rebelo said.

His union represents employees of the BC Rapid Transit Company, which includes SkyTrain Expo and Millennium lines.

Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke, leader of the community where several of the violent incidents have taken place, says there’s “no place” for continuing acts of violence against innocent riders confined to small spaces on buses or SkyTrains.

Locke is looking into an increased security presence on transit in Surrey, as well as technological solutions.

“No one should have to fear for their physical safety or life when riding our transit system. In the last two weeks we have seen three shocking incidents that have caused serious bodily harm and in one case ended the life of a 17-year-old,” she said in a statement.

“My deepest condolences to the family and friends of Ethan Bespflug. As a mom, I cannot imagine the pain Ethan’s family is going through.”

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