Bear Clan could be part of transit safety solution

When bus driver Irvine Fraser was stabbed to death last year, the city and transit vowed to increase security on board.

Now the Bear Clan Patrol could be part of that safety solution.

"We are ambassadors in our community and we would be happy to provide the same service on the transit buses," said Bear Clan Patrol leader James Favel.

The Bear Clan is a grassroots group of volunteers who patrols inner city neighbourhoods providing what it calls security in non-violent ways. It also helps search for missing people.

The Transit Advisory Committee, formed in the wake of the bus driver killing, is recommending Winnipeg Transit begin talks with police to see how the Bear Clan could be involved with bus safety initiatives.

"The Bear Clan has a very good reputation and they do very good work," said Winnipeg public works chair Matt Allard.

The city also announced five new transit inspectors will be hired to add an extra security presence on buses.

"I‘ve seen them de-escalate situations where there were conflicts about fare in a bus," said Allard.

The new inspectors would cost $590,000.

The transit union says that‘s a waste of money because the inspectors aren‘t equipped to deal with assaults on drivers and passengers.

"We‘re totally against what they‘re doing. I mean as far as the supervisors go, they‘re totally insufficient for our need, they‘re not security officers, they’re supervisors," said ATU president Aleem Chaudhary.

Instead the union says the money should be used to give the Bear Clan free bus passes and training. Bear Clan leader James Favel suggests some of the funds could be used for job creation.

"We would definitely look at paying honorariums to some of our volunteer. So we‘re looking at sort of a jobs program here, you know getting some of our marginalized community members out of the community and into the bigger city," said Favel.