Hamilton city bus employees given procedure for handling anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers

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Published October 29, 2021 at 6:18 pm

Hamilton Street Railway, the city’s transit service, gave employees “operational instructions” this week in the event that a bus route was disrupted by anti-maskers and vaccine refusers.

A leaked HSR employee memo was shared on Twitter on Thursday night by Caryma Sa’d, a Toronto lawyer and activist who has confronted anti-mask and vaccine refusers at no small amount of personal risk. The memo says City of Hamilton security informed the HSR of a “potential day of action” on Saturday (Oct. 30). The threat called for “enter(ing) onto various modes of transportation and refus(ing) to comply with public health requirements.”

The memo, signed by HSR transit operations manager Mark Williams, said they do not expect a protest on Saturday.

Regardless, the procedure bus drivers were given is as follows:

  • Asking the individuals to comply with the public health bylaw requiring masks on the bus due to COVID-19, and inform Control of the situation. Operators can take the bus out of service “if the activity persists.”
  • Drivers can bypass a stop if they see a group of protesters.
  • If there is a regular or vulnerable customer at that stop who may need assistance, the driver can call for a supervisor to assist with boarding.
  • Operators can also use the panic button on their bus if they believe there is “a credible and immediate threat to your safety or passenger safety.”

While HSR does not expect that service will be disrupted on Saturday, it bears noting that far-right nationalist behaviour has been present in Hamilton.

Just in the past few years, Yellow Vest protesters gathered in front of City Hall on Main Street on a weekly basis throughout 2019. In June of that year, members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community were physically attacked during a Pride event in Gage Park.

Last month, People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier held a rally in the same park ahead of the federal election, apparently without obtaining permits from the city. Hamilton native and pro hockey player Zac Rinaldo, who spoke at the PPC rally, was later cut by his NHL organization for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine.

The PPC did not receive more than 7.5 per cent of the vote in any of the city’s five federal ridings.

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