Regina's mayor says he won't be proposing a bylaw to enforce the mandatory mask orders on buses and instead wants to first try it with transit inspectors.
Mayor Michael Fougere told reporters on Oct. 15 he would propose a bylaw at the Oct. 28 city council meeting.
But Tuesday Fougere said transit inspectors will be the first to take on enforcement of the mandate, which began without enforcement at the end of August.
"We're going to be hiring more transit supervisors that will actually go around and inspect and audit buses as well," he said. "This is the same process we go through with a mandatory bylaw. So it's the same process without the bylaw itself."
The City of Regina said in a release that starting on Oct. 28 transit inspectors will be out conducting random audits of city buses.
Fougere said transit bus drivers will be asked to remind people stepping onto the bus to put on a mask. If drivers are concerned about safety, they should be phoning an inspector, he said. People with medical conditions or young children are exempt from the masking rule.
Union concerned after assaults in Ontario, Quebec
The president of the union representing about 200 transit drivers said he and his members are concerned about both the virus and passengers.
"There's been a lot of fear out there," said Kevin Lucier, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 588. "We're starting to see the infections sort of rise. Everybody sort of is a little bit on edge. The last thing we want is having to confront the passengers as they're walking in the front door."
Lucier said transit drivers should not be asking people to put on masks because it could turn into a confrontation or possible assault. He said instead there should be posters and more education about the mask order.
Lucier pointed to a person being charged with assault against a transit driver in London, Ont.; a bus driver whose face was fractured by a passenger outside Montreal; and a bus driver in France who was beaten until he was brain dead after trying to enforce the mask rules in that country.
He said in the past couple of months there has been an assault and a sexual assault against Regina transit drivers. It's been a high-stress environment for drivers already, Lucier said.
"It's difficult to come to work at this point," he said.
Fougere said if people aren't complying, the driver should phone the inspector to come and manage the situation, instead of stepping in themselves. He said then the inspector would meet them at a stop and talk to the person. If there were confrontations, the drivers would phone the inspector and potentially the Regina Police Service if necessary.
"I would be absolutely clear we do not want bus drivers at risk," Fougere said.
Pandemic calls for hard shields: union
Lucier said he'd also like to see hard shields protecting drivers.
"I know that's a little bit of a larger undertaking, but I think that's needed to be the ultimate destination. That's where we need to go."
Fougere said they have made a COVID-19 funding request for hard shields and hope to have them relatively soon.