Does racism, discrimination and ageism exist in Nova Scotia? You bet it does just as it does across the other nine provinces and territories. Does racism, discrimination and ageism exist within the ranks of Halifax bus drivers? Without a doubt, just as they do in probably every bus system and job category across Canada.
But, do racist, discriminatory and ageist bus drivers predominate the HRM bus system? Probably not despite the fact that bad behaviour likely happens on a daily basis. No matter where or when racism happens, we should speak out against it and hold the person who is responsible accountable for their actions. Still, I am far from convinced that all the reported incidents fall under this category.
For an example, the stories of the girl who got thrown off the bus for swearing. So much information was lacking that I spent a lot of time trying to puzzle out the missing pieces. Such as, was the girl on the bus by herself and if so, who did the bus driver think she was talking to and swearing at? What happened to the women who supposedly was the one who really swore and did the police and transit officials get a statement from her? Were the rest of the bus riders talked to about what happened and what did they have to say? The lack of answers to these questions made it hard to get an accurate grasp on whether the girl had been unfairly treated and if so, was race an issue or her youth.
I’m not convinced the bus driver’s treatment of the girl was because she was Black. I see and hear a lot of young people (and not so young people) on the bus and while most of them are respectful bus riders, there are also groups of youth and adults who forget just how loud they are when they are talking to each other. Foul language can be a problem when they get engrossed in their conversations and stop focusing on where they are and whether anyone else really wants to hear them laughing too loud and swearing too much.
So far, what I’ve read or heard about the problems with the bus drivers make it sound like that is all there is to the fleet of Metro’s transit personnel and that bad things happen so often that in taking a bus, a person is guaranteed to have a least one bad thing happen on every bus they take.
I want to see and hear the other sides of the story. I want to hear from the bus riders who experience positive things as they make their way daily to and from work and play. I also want to hear from the bus drivers. I agree that if they are burnt out and can’t take it anymore they should look at a career change. Even so, there are a lot of good drivers out there who like their job and do it well. But I bet you that after a full day (a full week or a full month)) of being ignored by rude people and being cut off by rude drivers that even the employee of the week driver has his or her moments when they snap. I’m only on the bus about forty minutes out of my day and sometimes I want to scream at someone. I want to know what it feels like as a driver to have person after person shove a transfer or a bus pass towards their face without even bothering to say good morning or afternoon in basic civility and common courtesy.
I don’t doubt that racism, discrimination and ageism are present in the attitudes of some HRM bus drivers since they are just as present in the people sitting on the bus. However, what I want is less emotive and more balanced reporting and overall information about these incidents so I can get a better understanding of the problem and find ways to be a part of the solutions that create a healthy community.