Media release Racism

Media advisory: Woman charged in racial incident on Halifax bus to appear in court Tuesday; group decries failure to label it a ‘hate crime’

A woman charged with several criminal offences in connection with an October 25 racist incident on a Halifax transit bus will be arraigned in Halifax Provincial Court (5250 Spring Garden Rd) Tuesday, January 8 at 10 am.

Stephanie Rogers will be charged with criminal harassment, uttering threats, and criminal disturbance. In the October incident, Rogers is alleged to have boarded the bus with a man and demanded that several people of colour wheeling baby strollers make way for them, as white people. When confronted by passengers that their behavior was inappropriate, Rogers and the man increased their racist abuse.

The driver of the bus eventually stopped the vehicle and demanded that the abusive couple disembark. While leaving, the couple threatened to catch up with one of their targets, Isaac Saney, when he and his then four-month-old daughter, Ashah left the bus later. They also struck the side of the bus as it pulled away.

When Saney, a Dalhousie University professor, and his daughter subsequently alighted at Scotia Square, the abusive couple were there to confront them with further threats and invective. A female fellow bus passenger, concerned about Saney’s safety, had accompanied him off the bus and called the police when the abuse resumed. A police officer appeared on the scene and challenged the abusive couple, defusing the situation.

A new group, called “Racism-Free Transit in Halifax” was formed and demanded information on racist incidents on transit, a meeting with Transit and HRM officials, and a campaign for transit as a safe space for diversity. The group also congratulated the bus driver, the passengers and the Good Samaritan woman for their exemplary behavior.

However, Saney, a trained lawyer, is dismayed at the failure of the Crown to include in the charges aspects of what are sometimes called a “hate crime.” “If ever there was a criminal case with racism involved, with witnesses to confirm, this is it“ says Saney. And yet the Crown has decided that the threshold to add race into the mix is too high.

“As a society, how are we to discourage racist violence if we cannot name it, shame it and blame it?” Judges, in their sentencing considerations, may take into account the aggravating factor of racial or other forms of hatred. “But,” says Saney, “Canadian justice officials need to be much more aggressive in how they tackle these issues.”