TORONTO, October 22, 2005 - The Bus Riders Union of Vancouver, British Columbia, took home the grand prize worth a total of $10,000 at the Canadian Race Relations Foundation's Fourth Biannual Award of Excellence handed out in Toronto tonight. The Bus Riders Union which has a membership of over 800 bus riders was formed about four years ago to challenge service cutbacks and fare increases which affected mostly low-income workers of colour who rely on public transportation to get to and from work.
We hope it will help in our efforts to convince TransLink decision makers that their decisions can result in systemic racism and discrimination. The Foundation's recognition of our grassroots efforts in affecting change means a lot to us."
Modelled on the Bus Riders Union in Los Angeles, the Vancouver BRU began its campaign in 2001 when TransLink, the public transportation authority decided to cut "Night Owl" buses which had a significant impact on transit dependent workers who lost their jobs or were forced to refuse late night shifts because they were unable to get to work. In 2004, the Bus Riders Union won their campaign and many of the Night Owl routes have been restored.
"We were struck by the message that the BRU conveyed through their efforts" said Mary-Woo Sims, Chair of the Awards Jury whose members come from across the country. "The message is this - there must be consideration given to the impact on the users of the transit system who are mostly poor and disadvantaged by decision makers like TransLink. Who are the most affected" They are mostly women, Aboriginal people and workers of colour. While what TransLink did might have been unintentional, it is a perfect example of systemic discrimination. The BRU recognized this systemic impact and did something about it."
The Canadian Race Relations Foundation (CRRF) which stages the Award of Excellence every two years accepts nominations based on outstanding work in anti-racism. Seven prizes are awarded in six categories: Aboriginal, Community, Corporate, Education, Public and Youth, with youth subdivided for an individual and an organization.
"The theme of our Awards this year was Effecting lasting systemic change because we think it's so important that not only a symbolic change happens, but one that lasts because people come understand the impact of their decisions and make efforts to remove barriers permanently," said Sister Andrée Ménard, Acting Chair of the CRRF.