Monday, September 07, 2009

Man asks for time in English, bus driver calls police

Maybe the passenger was rude or confrontational and the bus driver feared for her safety.

But most likely the bus driver in the article below acted as any xenophobe would when confronted with an English-speaking (strike 1) brown-person from some other part of the world (strike 2) who makes the mistake asking for the time in English in Montreal (yer' out!).

STM bus driver refuses to speak English, calls police
Passengers kicked off bus after man asks driver for time – in English
By Jason Magder, The Gazette
September 6, 2009

MONTREAL – At least now he knows how to say "Quelle heure est-il?"

Muhammad Ahmad Munir, a master's student from Pakistan studying at McGill University, was kicked off the No. 66 bus at 6:45 Friday morning after he asked the driver what the time was in English.

"I got on the bus and I didn't have a watch, so I asked the driver for the time," he said. "She started talking in French and I didn't understand what she was saying."

The 32-year-old native of Islamabad came to Montreal a few months ago to enroll in a master's degree program in Islamic studies at McGill.

After twice telling the bus driver he didn't understand French, she responded in English, saying: "I don't speak English."

"I then told her that she just showed me that she does speak English, and that's when she really got angry."

Munir said when he insisted on being served in English, the bus driver pressed a button to phone police, and proceeded to tell all the passengers to get off the bus. The bus was stopped at the terminus on Côte St. Luc Rd. at the corner of Walkley Ave. There were about 20 people on board the bus, Munir said.

Constable Yannick Ouimet confirmed the Montreal police received a call from the driver about a passenger who was being aggressive.

Reached Friday afternoon, Société de transport de Montréal spokesperson Isabelle Tremblay said the incident is under investigation.

Notre Dame de Grâce resident Linda Whitehall, who was waiting to get on the bus, said the driver must have phoned her colleague on the next bus because when it came, its driver would not open the doors for anyone waiting at the stop. Whitehall, who works at the Montreal General Hospital, was late as a result of the incident, and was forced to take an alternate bus.

"I was so embarrassed," Whitehall said. "This is the first time I have ever been embarrassed to be a Quebecer. Everyone was outraged over this."

Munir said he was upset about the incident, but it hasn't turned him off Montreal.

"I know for the most part, people are not like this," he said. "I haven't had a problem with anyone else since coming here."

Munir said coming from Pakistan, he understands the need to preserve the French language.

"In Quebec, they really have saved the culture very well," he said. "In Pakistan, we have lost our Urdu language, so on this point, I can appreciate the insistence on language, but there should be more tolerance for others."

Munir, who speaks Punjabi, Urdu, Arabic, and English, said he has tried to speak French, but so far can only manage a few words.

"I can say 'bonjour,' and I even said 'bonjour' to her, but I can't put together a complete sentence," he said.

>> Follow-up article