Greyhound Canada is axing its bus service throughout western Canada. This is extremely unsettling news. Those who will suffer most from this are already marginalized. The announcement should very much be seen as a crisis of mobility and safety.
On Monday, the company whose name has been part of my own life and desire to move about North America – from riding the Greyhound bus to Toronto as a pre-teen to see family to riding it weekly during my undergraduate and graduate degrees, to a bizarre trip across Florida – announced it is ceasing service in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and all routes in British Columbia excluding a connection between Vancouver and Seattle run by U.S. Greyhound.
The company had already announced that all routes to the Yukon are to be dropped as well. Ontario and Quebec will soon be the only areas of Canada where Greyhound service remains. The company notes ridership has dropped more than 40 per cent since 2010.
We must not forget that significant discussion about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls focuses on realities on the ground, such as transportation options. In British Columbia, for example, the 'Trail of Tears' between Prince George and Prince Rupert has seen many Indigenous women disappear along it. At many of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's meetings, transportation options – or the lack of them – between Indigenous communities in Canada's remote regions was raised as a large contributing factor to the lack of safety for people needing to move about their country.
Canada is a large country and within it are hundreds upon hundreds of Indigenous communities, often in remote regions. Greyhound has functioned for these communities as an option to get around, to leave bad situations, to seek out new opportunities, to see loved ones. Without this service, people will revert to the only options they have – dangerous hitchhiking or even staying put when they don't want to.
This should really be viewed as a crisis, not a news story. If we are working to prevent tragedy we need to realize this change will affect those who are most vulnerable in Canada. A recent study found that hitchhikers in northern B.C. are more likely to be Indigenous and more likely to face sexual assault.
In response to falling service and safety concerns, the B.C. government has launched a shuttle-bus service for the area and its residents. And here in Edmonton, Coun. Scott McKeen pushed a motion forward earlier this year to explore expanding bus service connections between Edmonton and the Enoch Cree First Nation.
We now need this ingenuity and response on a western-Canada scale.