A memorial was held Wednesday morning for slain driver Irvine Jubal Fraser, one year after he was killed on the job as a Winnipeg Transit bus driver.
Fraser was wrapping up his shift Feb. 14, 2017 when he was stabbed to death as he tried to get a sleeping passenger off his bus at the end of its route at the University of Manitoba.
On Wednesday, a remembrance service for Fraser was packed. Many in attendance were standing and some even forced to listen from outside the room.
Fraser’s widow Wanda McPhee was present, but left in tears shortly after the ceremony. Many drivers showed their support, including some who knew Fraser personally.
Fellow transit operator Christian Brambilla said he was friends with Fraser, and saw him the day before he was killed.
“It’s a real tough day. I knew Jubal fairly well – I used to relieve him on the 47 and we always had great conversations,” Brambilla said.
“I actually saw him on Feb. 13, the last day before his shift. I was picking up a prescription at the pharmacy and he was there. We had a conversation – and it’s tough, because I’m thinking I didn’t realize that’s the last time I’d ever get to speak to him.”
“I remember him smiling as we went away, and that’s how I’d like to remember him. He was a good guy and always had something good to say.”
Brambilla said he doesn’t feel any safer heading to work now compared to a year ago.
“I’ve been threatened myself on the job, but you do what you can. My family’s definitely worried for me, scared for me. Every day I go to work and feel like you never know – today could be the day.”
Aleem Chaudhary, president of the local transit union, spoke in remembrance of the man most knew as Jubal.
“Today was a very very tough day for myself and everybody that was here,” he said. “I knew Jubal very well – I worked with him for almost 16 years. It was a sad day and it is a sad day today, and one life lost is too many.”
He says progress in making transit drivers’ work environment safer has been slow.
“It’s on its way,” he continued. “One of the biggest goals we’re looking for – and we said this from day one – is we want transit police, either transit authority or working with the Winnipeg police department, to have some security on our buses.”
$590,000 has been set aside to make transit safer, and Chaudhary hopes the funds will be put to work sooner rather than later.
Greg Ewankiw, who is Winnipeg Transit’s acting director, said Wednesday a “security presence” that will police transit is on the way. How big that presence will be, who it will be comprised of and when it will arrive, however, is still undetermined.
“We’re taking the opportunity to review all of the information and a decision or recommendation will be made coming forward,” Ewankiw said.
“It’s not one strategy that’s going to do it. You have to have a toolbox full of these strategies to make these improvements.”
To honour the slain driver, all Winnipeg Transit buses flashed “In memory of #521” on Wednesday, referring to Fraser’s badge numbers as a transit operator.
Former Amalgamated Transit Union president John Callahan said flags around the city are also at half-mast to remember Fraser.