CALGARY — A transit driver who’s been fired amid a controversy over Calgary’s Pride bus says he wasn’t alone in his reluctance to take the wheel of the rainbow-wrapped vehicle.
Jesse Rau says one driver even phoned him personally to say that he’d drive the Pride bus if he was assigned to it, but that he resented it.
The Pride bus was driven on different routes in the city until the Pride Parade, which took place last weekend.
Artur Pawlowski, pastor of the Street Church in Calgary of which Rau is a member, said he’s expecting hundreds of people to attend a rally in support of Rau at Calgary City Hall on Oct. 10.
Doug Morgan of Calgary Transit wasn’t available on Saturday to answer whether other drivers expressed opposition to driving the bus.
City officials said in their termination letter that Rau, who was still on probation, was losing his job for breaching the city’s code of conduct and media relations policy.
“I was really grilled by quotes that other people made on my Facebook,” Rau said about a meeting he had with his bosses before he was fired.
“They’re not my views. I shouldn’t even be asked about them,” he continued.
“They asked me why I didn’t remove (them). I said I left it because I support free speech.”
Rau’s termination was welcomed by many on social media.
“Calgary Transit made the right decision. Rainbow bus reigns!” a tweet from OutTV on Saturday said.
Craig Sklenar with Calgary Pride said the organization wasn’t commenting on the case, noting it was between Calgary Transit and its employees. He did note that Pride appreciated the support from transit with the bus in this year’s 25th annual parade.
“It was one of the most popular things in the Pride parade this year,” Sklenar said.
The termination letter, which Rau distributed to media on Friday, pointed out that Rau had never been asked to operate the Pride bus and was specifically advised he would not be assigned to it.
The letter also says Rau falsely accused the city of fabricating a driving complaint against him in order to “sabotage” him. It also says he posted “Nazi-related content” to Facebook, where he identified himself as a bus driver.
Rau said one of the photos depicted a Nazi shooting a Jew, who was holding a child, in the back. He said it’s clear the posts are anti-Nazi and that he explained that to his bosses.
“They didn’t understand the photo,” he said. “I believe we’re losing our freedoms in the West.”
Morgan told media on Friday when he was asked about Rau’s case that he couldn’t discuss specifics of a personnel matter, but that drivers are expected to uphold a code of conduct.
Rau agreed that his superiors told him the bus wouldn’t be used on his route. He said that’s fine for him, but that other drivers on other routes would feel pressured to drive the bus even if they didn’t support Pride.
Rau calls the Pride parade a “sex event.” The Street Church, meanwhile, has condemned gay people on its website as minions of Satan.
He said that after he expressed his opposition to driving the bus, Calgary Transit eventually asked drivers if they wanted to drive it.
“That’s awesome. That’s how it should have been in the first place,” Rau said.
— By Rob Drinkwater in Edmonton
The Canadian Press