It was cold and rainy last Saturday night while Serena Klumpenhouwer waited for the 2 Dundas bus to pick her up at Alumni Hall. What began as an innocuous commute home turned into an unsettling run-in with what Klumpenhouwer described as a prejudiced driver.
The bus slowed down in front of Alumni Hall on Saturday but did not stop to pick up passengers. Instead, it sped up and drove away. According to Klumpenhouwer, the bus was not full.
Not wanting to miss her ride home, Klumpenhouwer waited for the bus to circle around and caught the same one at the Brescia stop.
Upon boarding the bus, she inquired as to why the driver had missed the waiting passengers at Alumni.
The driver allegedly told Klumpenhouwer that Alumni Hall was not a real stop, and that he was not obligated to stop there. The fourth-year English major was confused, as she had been catching the 2 Dundas there for the past four years.
“But among most students it’s presumed to be a stop,” Klumpenhouwer told the bus driver, whose identity is unknown.
He then allegedly mocked Klumpenhouwer’s speech.
“It’s presumed? I’m sorry, you’re not using that word properly. I can’t understand you,” Klumpenhouwer said the bus driver responded.
According to Klumpenhouwer, the driver continued to mock her English, claiming he couldn’t understand what she was saying and that she was speaking incorrectly. Next, the driver told Klumpenhouwer he felt threatened by her, and told her to sit at the back of the bus.
She obeyed, saying she walked to the back of the bus, sat down, and pulled out her book. However, the English major, who was born and raised in London, Ontario, knew there was no language barrier.
“The idea of black people being threatening is very common,” said Klumpenhouwer, who is black. “If you look foreign, claiming to not understand you is a way of belittling your speech.”
What came next on her ride home was even more shocking. About a block after picking her up, the bus pulled over and the driver got on the phone with the dispatcher.
“I figured the bus broke down or something’s wrong,” Klumpenhouwer said. But then she heard an, “excuse me miss,” from the driver, and realized he was talking to her.
“He said to me, ‘I don’t feel safe with you on this bus, I’m going to ask you to get off,’” Klumpenhouwer said.
She said she disembarked without protest.
“I personally think that because of the colour of my skin and because I am female he executed his power and will in an unethical way,” Klumpenhouwer said.
Klumpenhouwer was left stranded in the rain to wait for what felt like an hour for the next bus.
Klumpenhouwer contacted the police and the LTC to get to the bottom of the incident. She is currently looking for witnesses who were riding the bus at the time.
The LTC confirmed they received a contact regarding an alleged racial discrimination incident on Saturday, January 11.
“We received a contact regarding an alleged racial discrimination incident,” Larry Ducharme, LTC general manager, said. “Did that mean there is an actual occurrence? That is in the process of being investigated. We don’t comment on them [they are] first and foremost subject to our review. We have a protocol for investigating alleged incidences.
He also confirmed that Alumni Hall is in fact a scheduled stop on the 2 Dundas route, and noted “drivers routinely ask passengers to move to the back of the bus” to let more people on.
Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call the LTC at 519-451-1347.