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B.C. premier outlines measures to address safety on transit

With a string of violent assaults on Metro Vancouver transit in the past week, BC United questioned Monday whether the province is acting fast enough to make the system safer.

The NDP government was on the defensive during question period as the newly renamed opposition demanded to know what's being done to improve public safety.

BC United leader Kevin Falcon raised the case of Ethan Bespflug. The 17-year-old was stabbed on board a Surrey bus last week, and later died.

"Ethan's family, like so many others, is calling for change, an increase in security on public transit and in our own communities," Falcon said. "When is this premier and government finally going to take some concrete steps so people can feel safe in their communities again?"

Falcon accused the NDP of underfunding hundreds of policing positions while in power.

Premier David Eby responded with several measures, including some that pre-dated the deadly assault.

"Community safety officers, TransLink is already in the midst of hiring them. They're bringing on 24 community safety officers to increase security on our transit system. The RCMP and transit police are stepping up their presence and patrols on the transit system," Eby explained.

Both he and Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth say they're ready to provide more resources if needed.

Farnworth told reporters the issue of violent crime on transit systems is one provinces across the country are grappling with. He added he spoke with his counterpart, federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, this weekend, to push for an expanded reverse onus when it comes to bail. He says Ottawa has committed to changes during the spring legislative session.

Farnworth explained the provinces are looking "to put as broad a possible definition when it comes to reverse onus so it's not just on firearms, it's on knives, it's on bear spray, it's on other weapons."

Reverse onus means the accused is likely to be detained unless they can prove that shouldn't be the case. It typically applies to the most serious of cases, including murder, attempted murder, and other Criminal Code violations involving firearms. Top Stories

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