The Other Side of the Story: Racism and Peterborough Transit

A Peterborough Transit bus at the Transit terminal downtown.

Job Moise and Imani Charles believe that they are the victims of racial discrimination by Peterborough Transit. This is their side of the story.

Before I met Job Moise, I googled him. I found out that he played basketball for Fleming and had looked for work on I was hoping to find a picture of him, but there was no profile picture for Job Moise on this website. I scrolled through the profiles of mostly young white women. Blond and brunette, smiling, holding puppies or kittens, picture perfect nannies and pet sitters. I knew why he hadn’t posted his picture.

As we exchanged emails, I found out more about Job Moise. He is a graduate of Fleming College’s Addictions & Mental Health program and currently works for two of Peterborough’s emergency shelters. He has a lovely and supportive girlfriend, Imani Charles, and they both rely on public transit to get around Peterborough. Like many of us, they use transit for work, for school, for shopping, for living. But Job and Imani have been banned from using transit. This is how I met them.

The incident that got them both banned, also led to his arrest for assault with a weapon. The “weapon” was a cup of water, thrown in frustration at a driver. The frustration of having a bus disembark riders 20 feet ahead of the designated transit stop they were waiting at. The insult of being encouraged by the driver to run to the bus only to have the doors shut on them and the bus drive off without them. The disappointment of a second driver refusing to get involved. The aggravation of listening to the first driver trying to explain away his actions as something other than racially motivated. The frustration, and yes, the anger of being continuously victimized by racism and discrimination.

If you google Job Moise today, your search will bring up an article from the Peterborough Examiner on his arrest. Adding injury to insult, it only took three sentences to label this young man as a threat.

It seems that it is not illegal to racially discriminate against someone but it is illegal to respond to discrimination in frustration and anger. There is a quote by Anne Bishop that sums up the situation: “Anger should be an expression of our will directed against injustice. Anger, in this society, however, has been turned into violence without analysis, an excuse for more repression.” More repression is exactly what Job Moise is faced with.

There is a very real possibility that the assault charges will lead to a criminal record. A criminal record that will most certainly impact future employment. Even knowing this, Job Moise is willing to proceed. This has become a “Rosa Parks Moment” for him. He is willing to put himself in legal jeopardy to raise awareness of discrimination faced by people of colour in our community.

His current employment is also in jeopardy. Since he can’t use transit to get to and from work he is forced to find other options. I commend his employers for being incredibly supportive. They initially covered the cost of his cab fare but they cannot do this indefinitely. He must absorb the cost himself or find some other means of transportation, otherwise he’ll be out of work.

Some folks will fail to recognize the incident as racially motivated and many, including the driver, will present a “perfectly logical explanation” for what took place. Others will say that if he hadn’t acted on his frustration he would not have been arrested and he and Imani would not be banned from transit. Wait. Why exactly was Imani banned from using transit? Her only “crime” was questioning the driver on his actions. Perhaps just being in a relationship with Job Moise poses a threat on public transit? I can’t help but wonder, why didn’t the driver just tell them how to make a formal complaint?

I discovered that there is no documentation of the ban from transit just as there is no appeal process when a ban is issued. If Peterborough Transit has a mechanism for receiving complaints it is not clearly identified as such. One might be led to believe that this type of feedback is not encouraged. Clearly there is a need to clarify the rules and processes for all transit riders.

The problem lies not only with Peterborough Transit. When I consider how this incident played out, I am left feeling that Job Moise was failed by each individual and institution that was involved. Transit, Fleming, the Police, the City of Peterborough and the Peterborough Examiner all played a role in this unfortunate incident. There were numerous missed opportunities to mitigate the negative impact for everyone involved.

Racial discrimination and harassment are acts of aggression against Black, Indigenous and People of Colour that are allowed to happen constantly, without consequence. In a predominantly white community like Peterborough we need to get our heads out of the sand. We need to stop being so well adjusted to injustice that we can look the other way without a second thought. We must stand up for equality and justice and we should expect and accept nothing less.

Job Moise didn’t include a profile picture on that job search website because he instinctively knew there is bias against him as a young black man, just as he knew racial discrimination played a role in the events leading up to his arrest. Black, Indigenous and People of Colour are skilled at recognizing racism and discrimination. We deal with the subtleties of microaggressions and white fragility daily. We can spot the denial and deflection that occurs when racial incidents are identified.

Whether you believe it or not, this is a #RosaParksMoment for Peterborough. Every one of us needs to decide what side of history we want to be on.