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Indigenous Women are in Danger After Greyhound Abandons Bus Routes for Good

On Halloween at midnight, something scary happened. Greyhound bus services stopped all but one of their routes from B.C to northern Ontario because of a 41% ridership decrease. Yes this is inconvenient for many, but for Indigenous women in Canada, it is dangerous.  

Here is all the information you need to know about this abandonment:

Affordable transportation is critical if we are to help prevent violence against Indigenous women and girls, avoid forcing them to be in dangerous situations, or provide an escape from domestic violence. – Pam Palmater, Maclean’s

Many of Greyhound’s routes are gradually being taken over by other bus companies but in the meantime many will be left to rely on ride-shares

However, ride-shares can also be extremely dangerous for these women…

“But we know, based on past history, that some of our people have gone missing utilizing things like ride share,” Jody Leon, a member of the Splatsin First Nation in B.C. told CBC.

27-year-old Caitlin Potts went missing in 2016 after leaving a message for her sister saying she had found a ride-share to Calgary on Kijiji. Potts is still missing and the RCMP confirmed in 2017 that foul play is suspected, according to CBC.

The interim report from the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls recommended “more frequent and accessible transportation services available to Indigenous women, girls, and LGBTQ2S people.”

The Greyhound stoppages “will exacerbate the risk and vulnerability of Indigenous women and girls,” according to a media release about the inquiry. 

Grand Chief Doug Kelly, chair of the First Nations Health Council in B.C. told CBC that his first concern about the cuts to Greyhound services is safety.

“If they’re hitchhiking, they’re vulnerable; they’re vulnerable to violence, they’re vulnerable to murder.” – Grand Chief Doug Kelly to CBC.

In many of the affected provinces, Greyhound was the only means of transportation city-to-city. In an opinion piece for Maclean’s, Pam Palmater says that First Nation peoples will be “disproportionately impacted by Greyhound’s decision in ways that go well beyond merely shuttling people from point A to B.”

Manitoba and Saskatchewan, for instance, have the highest rates of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls in Canada, at 49 per cent and 55 per cent respectively. 

Jan Reimer, the executive director of the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters, told Tyler Dawson of the National Post that she’s knows women who’ve used the Greyhound network to escape domestic abuse. 

“Many women who are abused, you know, financial abuse is part of it; they don’t have keys to the car, they know they have to get out of there if they want to stay alive. Greyhound and the bus has been something that they can afford and that they’ve used.” – Reimer to the National Post

Kelowna Women’s Shelter executive director Karen Mason told Global News that the shelter sometimes pays bus fare for women seeking help in fleeing abusive relationships. Other times, they need to go to other communities away from Kelowna where they have family and support. 

“We will often hear from women in more remote locations or even just, say, in Kamloops, who need to get to another community for their safety, and do not have the means,” Mason to CBC.

“It is vital that women in rural and remote communities have access to safe and affordable transportation. Without it, they may have little choice but to remain with their abuser.” –  B.C. Society of Transition houses executive director Joanne Baker to Global News. 

Along a 720 km stretch of highway in British Columbia nicknamed the Highway of Tears, the lack of transportation has been cited as a factor in the disappearance or murder of at least 18 women and girls, many of them Indigenous, as they were forced to turn to hitchhiking. BC Transit has stepped in to offer bus services there after Greyhound stopped servicing the route.

Other companies like Rider Express have stepped in to take over certain routes, but the wait time and route gaps left behind will impact the safety of Indigenous women and victims of domestic violence. 

Marc Garneau, the Federal Transport Minister announced on Wednesday that over 87 per cent of the abandoned Greyhound routes have been taken over by regional companies, as reported by Global News

Garneau also announced that the government is open to helping affected provinces pay for bus services in areas where other companies haven’t taken over.

Jane Philpott, Minister of Indigenous Services Canada said her department will subsidize bus services to remote Indigenous communities where needed.

The government also noted on Wednesday that those affected by Greyhound’s actions may have to wait two years for permanent replacements of the buses and routes Greyhound left behind.

This is generally good news, although the Amalgamated Transit Union told Global News that these announcements leave many commuters “stranded” with no information or details on how they will get around.

See an animated map of route stops before and after Greyhound’s stoppage.

Melanie is a Journalism & Law student at Carleton University that loves to travel and recently studied foreign correspondence abroad in the Czech Republic.
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