Skip to comments.Metro Transit driver suspended over mock attack on fake seal (Halifax, Nova Scotia)
Posted on 03/17/2009 4:29:00 AM PDT by Loyalist
The head of an anti-sealing group is upset that Halifax Regional Police arent pressing charges again a Metro Transit driver who stopped his bus, ran toward the protesters and pretended to attack a mock seal with an extendable baton.
The incident, which happened at about 12:40 p.m. Saturday in front of the main entrance to the Public Gardens, has prompted the transit company to relieve the driver of his duties pending a full investigation. During that time, the driver will receive full pay.
The director of the Atlantic Canadian Anti-Sealing Coalition said its "extremely alarming" that no charges have been laid, considering the driver physically disrupted a peaceful demonstration.
"He had to cross the street to do it, brandishing a weapon, threatening and physically intimidating people," Bridget Curran said Monday. "What the police are saying by not charging him is that its completely acceptable."
The driver, who was in uniform, stopped his bus near the corner of Spring Garden Road and South Park Street and ran toward the group of about 25 protesters while brandishing a baton, Ms. Curran said.
"It was a black retractable baton, which is a weapon. I saw it quite clearly," she said.
"He was running across the street, brandishing this baton in his hand, running at us. A few people actually thought that he was coming for them, but he ran over to a homemade seal that we had on the ground as part of our demonstration and he started whacking the ground by the seal."
As he ran toward the protesters, she said, the driver called out to nearby television cameras, "Are you rolling?" One local station caught the entire occurrence on tape.
"We were all quite shocked," Ms. Curran said. "We were there to demonstrate against violence against animals and, in this particular case, the seal hunt. But he obviously thought that it was quite funny to simulate an act of violence against a seal."
Pat Soanes, general manager of Metro Transit, called the drivers behaviour "unacceptable," insisting such events are rare.
"Metro Transit in no way condones the kind of behaviour recently reported," she told reporters Monday. "Like everyone else, we are deeply concerned. Our operators are trained professionals and we expect them to behave accordingly."
Police and Metro Transit have interviewed the bus driver.
"At this point, there is not enough evidence to lay a charge with respect to the item that he struck the seal with," said police spokeswoman Theresa Rath. "But our file is still open, and the investigation is ongoing."
According to Ms. Rath, the collapsable baton is not a prohibited weapon.
The bus number was 1036, and the vehicle was driving east on the No. 1 Spring Garden route. Ms. Curran described the driver as middle-aged and said he was of "medium build and medium height, with a bit of a belly on him."
Cheryl Ratchford, who was a passenger on the bus, said the unexpected stop lasted only a few seconds.
"I think he just did it to be funny," Ms. Ratchford said. "I dont think there was any planning behind it.
"People were just shocked. People just sort of laughed and sort of whispered, What is up? "
Ms. Curran said a Metro Transit supervisor took statements from witnesses and "apologized on behalf of Metro Transit for the drivers behaviour."
Ms. Soanes took that apology a step further Monday, saying the transit company is developing a refresher training program for all its 500 drivers that would focus on customer relations, diversity training and conflict management.
Metro Transit drivers have been dogged this month with complaints of road rage and racism, including one last week involving a driver insisting that a Muslim woman wearing a veil over her face had to get off the bus.
Ms. Soanes said that driver was also removed from his duties with pay while Metro Transit looks into the allegations.
Coun. Dawn Sloane (Halifax Downtown) was at a loss to explain the recent events, including the one at the seal protest.
"Here we are promoting Metro Transit and then this rash of weird incidents starts happening," Ms. Sloane said. "I think we need to look at the cause of why the drivers are so stressed out."
Metro Transit drivers are not "untouchable," she said.
"We are all, in society, responsible for our actions," Ms. Sloane said. "Thats why Im wondering if this is a stress-related incident or incidents. And I am concerned about that.
"If they are under stress, we must find out why and we must try to help them. Maybe anger management courses are required. I dont know."
With Jennifer Stewart, staff reporter
I don't agree with the driver doing it on the job, but it's about time somebody stood up to these protesters with a little "direct action" of their own.
Hail to the bus driver, bus driver man!
Fake seals have feelings too.
“A Baby Seal Walks Into A Club”
I found it here on FR. School teachers hate it.
I thought it might be the same Metro driver who decked McGruff the Crime Dog.
Maybe he was practicing for the Busker festival . . .
It’s Canada - he need only claim he is gay, a Muslim, or protesting Christians, and he’ll be off the hook.
I have rarely been to a conservative peaceful demonstration where liberals did not physically interrupt it.
With cops standing by and allowing it and not arresting anyone.
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