News / Ottawa

Deans calls transit safety meeting with women's groups

The chair of the municipality's transit commission has called a meeting with local women's groups to discuss safety on OC Transpo.

Four organizations -- Women's Initiatives for Safer Environment, the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women, City of All Women Initiative, and Hollaback! Ottawa -- have been invited to the June 20 meeting, according to Coun Diane Deans' office.

"The commitment is to an ongoing dialogue with these organizations," said Deans Monday. "To not only ensure the safety of our system, but to ensure that users of the system perceive that they're safe on our system."

Several media outlets have drawn attention to the issue of sexual assault on OC Transpo. Deans said that factored in the decision to call the meeting, but that she intends to discuss safety more generally.

"There are a number of groups in our community that perceive their safety differently," said Deans. "And people who may face additional barriers, whether its women, disabled people, seniors, young people, we recognize the importance of having an ongoing dialogue with everybody concerned about safety in our community."

Julie Lalonde of Hollaback! said chalking concerns up to perception is "a dismissive way of addressing concerns."

"I think it's offensive to tell people that their concerns about safety are basically in their head, strictly a perception," said Lalonde. "I don't think there's anything out there telling women in particular that transit is unsafe, therefore if they perceive it to be unsafe it's because they have reason to do so.

Racil Hilan, 34, of Gatineau was found guilty last week of sexual assault in an incident on an OC Transpo bus in February. Two other similar charges from Dec. 2012 were dropped. His sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 12.

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