News / Edmonton

Mocking Amarjeet Sohi shows ‘lack of respect’ for vulnerable bus drivers: Union

Laughter as Sohi paid respects to a slain Winnipeg driver is indicative of attitude towards at-risk bus operators, says Edmonton bus drivers' union president.

Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Amarjeet Sohi answers a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, November 21, 2016.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Amarjeet Sohi answers a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, November 21, 2016.

Watching federal infrastructure minister and former Edmonton bus driver Amarjeet Sohi mocked by political opponents while trying to pay his respects to a slain bus driver in Winnipeg has struck a chord with the head of the Edmonton bus drivers’ union.

Mark Tetterington, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 569, said the obvious laughter heard in the House of Commons Wednesday as Sohi brought up his past as a bus driver was indicative of a “lack of respect” that puts bus operators at increased risk of assault.

“I think it’s terrible what they did. Terrible,” said Tetterington. “Minister Sohi has worked his way up from an operator all the way to the Minister of Infrastructure and a lot of what he knows is because of his time as an operator.”

Sohi was attempting to express his condolences for 58-year-old Irvine Fraser, who was killed on the job in Winnipeg the previous day, when laughter broke out as he brought up his past as an Edmonton Transit Service driver.

"Obviously, I did notice the laughter, but I was there to convey a very, very important message, and that message was to show our support and thoughts and prayers with the person who was stabbed while serving his community," Sohi told reporters in Ottawa Thursday. “We all come from different backgrounds, and my background is what I’m proud of."

Deputy premier Brian Mason, MLA for Edmonton Highlands-Norwood, is also a former bus driver and tweeted his support for Sohi.

“Hang in there,” Mason wrote. “You’re twice the politician and twice the man that any of them are. #transitpride”

Mayor Don Iveson also came to the defence of the former city councillor.

“Regardless of, or even because of Amargeet’s long history of public service, I have profound respect for him,” Iveson said. “He’s phenomenal and no one deserves to be disrespected.”

Tetterington said Edmonton bus drivers – who daily confront angry passengers and people with substance abuse issues – are increasingly at risk of assault. A lack of respect “is a big part” of the problem.

Seven bus drivers were assaulted on the job in Edmonton last month, he said.

“It’s a tough job, they’re out there every day in the line of duty,” said Tetterington. “No one should have to go to work and worry about not coming back.”

With files from Ryan Tumilty

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