A filmed altercation on a Barrie Transit bus between some passionate protesters and a city bus driver is making waves on social media and has resulted in an official complaint to the City of Barrie.
Alyssa Hartsink, 27, is a dental assisting student who lives in Barrie.
“This is important to me. When you see things that aren’t right, you have to use your voice for a greater good,” she told BarrieToday. “There are so many people who have experienced racism, and it’s not right.”
Hartsink and her friend, Jessica Pelland, participated in the Justice for Black Lives protest on Thursday in Barrie’s downtown.
After the protest was over, the duo hopped on a nearly empty Barrie Transit bus to head home to the south end of the city.
“We were singing, ‘No justice, no peace',” said Hartsink. “The driver told us to shut up.”
Hartsink says she and her friend were awestruck by the tone of the request.
“We’re respectful people. Had he asked us to be quiet nicely, we absolutely would have,” she said. “I sensed that it wasn’t about how loud we were, but what we were saying that was annoying him.”
Hartsink asked the driver if he was a racist.
The driver responded, “Yes.”
“After that, I confronted him,” said Hartsink. “I asked him for his name. He refused to provide it and instead told us to start walking.”
Hartsink was uneasy getting off the bus, but complied.
“It was after dark and we were two female college students, but once we realized he wasn’t going to provide us with his name, we left the bus,” she said. “When we got home, my friend and I were in tears.”
A video shared with BarrieToday and posted on social media shows the altercation.
“I’ve been getting positive messages since posting about it, but one of my friends said, ‘If this wasn’t on video, people probably wouldn’t believe you.’ That’s true. This stuff happens all the time. I’m thankful I was recording,” said Hartsink.
Hartsink said she made a formal complaint with the city after the incident.
“I explained what happened, and they were very nice. They said they would do an investigation and they would keep me updated,” said Hartsink.
Hartsink said she hasn’t yet heard back on the outcome of that investigation. When asked what she hopes the outcome might be, she says there are ways these types of incidences could be prevented in the future.
“I don’t have all the answers. They could do more training on sensitivity. I hope this man is held accountable for his actions. Something needs to be done,” she said.
Brent Forsyth, the city's director of transit, sent a statement and apology concerning the incident to BarrieToday on Monday.
“The city’s transit service provider has taken disciplinary action related to this incident,” said Forsyth. “Our riders should always feel safe and welcomed on Barrie Transit. We will not tolerate this type of behaviour. We’re sorry this incident happened.”
When BarrieToday asked Forsyth to elaborate on what disciplinary action was taken, he declined to answer.
"We can’t share this detail as it is a confidential employee relations matter," he said.