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Student allegedly called an ‘asshole’ for boarding an express bus

Photo by Mico Mazza

An international student and Senate representative at the University of Ottawa says a bus driver called him an “asshole” and accused him of “cheating” the OC Transpo system despite evidence of his U-Pass.

Kashif Awan, a PhD student, said he boarded an empty double-decker at Campus Station at approximately 8:15 a.m. on March 30, headed to Hurdman Station. He said he boarded from the back door and thought the bus was empty.

“All of a sudden (the driver) shouted, ‘But this is an express, you asshole,’” Awan said. “I was shocked. I wasn’t expecting something like that. I was quiet for a while.”

Awan said he travels to Carleton University about twice a week and was headed there that day. Awan asked the bus driver “if that’s how we treat people in this country,” and the bus driver allegedly replied “yes.”

Awan reported the incident to OC Transpo along with the number of the bus on which it occurred. He had asked to be part of the proceedings, but was told that wasn’t possible.

After Awan threatened legal action, OC Transpo said they would contact him, but he said he hasn’t heard from them. He has since issued a legal complaint.

Awan initially said he was “scared of white people” because of the incident.

“I should never generalize things. I have had a good experience so far, especially on campus. On campus, people have been really nice, maybe because they are educated,” he later said.

“Now, every time I board an OC Transpo bus, it stays in my mind that I could be insulted like that again.”

OC Transpo would not comment on the specific incident, but wrote in an email to the Fulcrum that “complaints are addressed in a number of ways depending on what they include or how they are received”

Awan, who was elected as a Senate representative for the Graduate Students’ Association (GSAÉD) in March, said there are no mechanisms in place to protect international students at the U of O. He criticized the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) and the GSAÉD for not caring about international students. Awan said he “might become an activist” because of the incident.

“There are organizations that work for animals, but none that work for people,” he said.

The spokesperson for the International Student Success Centre at the U of O was unavailable to comment, but the office did say that their website lists resources offered to international students. Services included mentorships, information on Canadian culture and academic life, and specific aid for challenges faced by international students.

The International House, which is monitored by the SFUO, also offers social, cultural, academic, and economic assistance to international students.

Despite these resources and events, Awan said he hasn’t seen any cultural events just for international students. He said he wants an international student association separate from the SFUO and GSAÉD.