Bus line closure leaves women escaping violence in a bind

The cancellation of a Saturday Winnipeg – Selkirk bus run has left women who are seeking refuge from violence in a bind, the head of a local women’s shelter says.

Nova House executive director Anna Pazdzierski said the recent cancellation of Beaver Bus Lines’ Saturday service leaves victims who are tying to escape violence in a difficult situation.

Pazdzierski said Nova House used the line frequently to transport clients to and from Winnipeg, including in emergency situations where victims were escaping violence.

She said women often come to Selkirk from Winnipeg, because they feel safer outside the city.

“Especially if the partner has gang involvement,” she said.

The line’s closure means clients must now find their own ride to Nova House on the weekend or the Selkirk shelter must pay the cost of a taxi. There is no Sunday Winnipeg-Selkirk bus route.

“We have no choice but to use taxi cabs and the cost of that is increasing all the time,” Pazdzierski said.

And it’s not the first time Nova House clients have been impacted by a transit route closure.

In 2012, Greyhound cut service to all of its routes in the Interlake, leaving the shelter, which has no company vehicle, to rely completely on cabs.

Pazdzierski said the shelter has paid taxi bills as high as $600 – $800 for clients coming from northern parts of the Interlake.

The province usually reimburses the shelter when it pays for taxi rides, but the non-profit has to pay the bills upfront, which isn’t easy, she said.

“Our big issues are people who live in some of the more remote communities up Highway 6 or up Highway 59.”

Pazdzierski hopes a smaller transit company will set up shop in the Interlake, but admits she doesn’t know how that would be financially viable.

“Transportation is one of the biggest issues in all of our rural communities.”

Provincial spokeswoman Rachel Morgan said the province will monitor the transit situation with Nova House.

But Morgan said the province wouldn’t be reintroducing long-term subsidies for private bus companies.

In an interview with the Selkirk Record last month, Beaver Bus Lines president John Fehr Jr., said part of the reason for the Saturday line closure was because of the absence of provincial subsidies.

He said his buses on the Saturday run were travelling nearly empty, and without any kind of subsidy it didn’t make financial sense to continue operating the route.

“It was a very tough decision. It wasn’t an easy decision to make by any means,” Fehr said.

A full story on this issue will appear in the Selkirk Record next Thursday.

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