A man who says he was attacked as he left an Edmonton LRT terminal is calling on the UCP government to do more to help people who are homeless, addicted and violent.
Rob Nicholl was getting off the train and walking out of Southgate station at around 8.45pm on Saturday when he says he was punched several times.
“I saw a man standing probably two meters from the doors just urinating on the pavement openly,” he recalled.
“As I pushed past, trying not to get his urine on my shoes, I said something like, ‘What’s wrong with you? Can you pee somewhere else?’
Nicholl said he kept walking but the man came after him.
“I heard him shouting behind me and then he hit me in the back of the head,” he said. “He asked, ‘Do you have anything else to say? Do you have anything else to say?’ And kept throwing more punches.”
Nicholl said the attacker continued to follow him down the sidewalk and punched him at least twice. He was “covered in blood” and suffered a concussion and a broken orbital bone. He has two black eyes and wounds on the front and back of his head.
Nicholl is not upset with the Edmonton Transit Service (ETS) or the City of Edmonton, but feels there is a serious problem with safety on the streets of Alberta’s capital.
He suspects the attacker may be dealing with either an addiction or homelessness, or perhaps both. Nicholl is less concerned with getting caught and more with bigger problems that make people like him fugitive.
“Increasing numbers of people can’t find housing, don’t have any kind of support if they fall into an addiction, good luck getting out of it. We have a provincial government that has gone and closed safe places of consumption, so all the activity has now moved into transit hubs,” he said.
OTHER TRANSIT OFFENSES
Nicholl isn’t the only person to experience violence on Edmonton’s transit system this year, with a handful of cases making headlines.
In April was a senior pushed onto Edmonton LRT tracks in what police called a “violent unprovoked assault”. She launched a $1.1 million lawsuit against Edmonton and ETS in June.
In May, two women from BC went public claiming they were randomly assaulted on an Edmonton bus. A 35-year-old woman was charged over the incident.
Then in September a man was arrested under the Psychiatry Act after he allegedly pointed a flare gun with a bus driver at the Westmount Transit Centre.
“I’m a big believer in the value of a public transportation system,” Nicholl said.
“What’s the solution? Buy in from the provincial government for real solutions, evidence-based solutions.”
Nicholl is now waiting to speak to a city councilor about his experience, but he believes the city doesn’t have enough resources to deal with the open drug use, public urination and violence he sees on his daily commute.
“I’m not going to let that one incident, as damaging and frightening as it may be, stop me from living my life the way it’s best lived,” he said.
‘WE WILL CONTINUE TO SUPPORT THE POLICE’
In May, Minister of Justice Tyler Shandro ordered Mayor Amarjeet Sohi to create a security plan for the city center and on transit.
In April, Sohi announced that 21 new transit police officers would be hired and that the city is also adding more local transit outreach teams that specialize in mental health, addictions and housing.
In October, the province announced $187 million over two years to be spent on substance abuse services and housing support.
“Keeping communities safe while treating addiction as a health issue is a priority for our government. We are taking significant steps to address issues of public safety and social suffering in Edmonton,” Colin Aitchison of the Department of Mental Health and Addictions wrote in a statement on Thursday.
“We will continue to support police to keep our communities safe while treating addiction as a health problem by focusing on recovery-oriented solutions to the addiction crisis.”
Nicholl said he’s noticed more security at transit centers in recent months, but said it’s still not enough.
With files from CTV News Edmonton’s David Ewasuk