A few weeks back I wrote a lighthearted column about a bus driver who clubbed a fake seal in front of protesters. I thought the story was hilarious, the bus driver didn’t do anything that bad, and people should lighten up.
Of course, everyone was stunned this week when the once-humourous story turned tragic. The Metro Transit driver, Dann Little, was fired last Friday and committed suicide the next day.
I’ve talked to some of Little’s coworkers in the past week and it seems the fallout from the seal event took its toll. Some website commenters and radio call-in show guests lashed out, calling Little crazy and saying he should be fired.
Some of the seal hunt protesters even called for him to be charged, even though they knew — or should have known — he committed no criminal act.
It must have felt crushing. Little never got a fair shake, and unfortunately now people are taking the same knee-jerk condemnation reaction against Metro Transit.
I don’t agree with the decision to fire Little. I think it was an overreaction. But I’m not going to tell the person or people who made the decision they’ve got blood on their hands. There was no way they could have predicted Little’s suicide and can’t be held responsible.
It’s too easy to blame Metro Transit for making a choice many people would have made, and it pulls attention away form real issues that seem to need fixing.
Little’s family has reported he was afraid to tell his bosses he was on anti-depressants. Drivers I’ve talked to also have the view that recent stiffer punishments are coming from city hall to try to stamp out bad PR. These issues demand answers.
None of us know what was going through Little’s head, or what buildup of causes led to his decision. It’s great to see an outpouring of support for him from website commenters and call-in show guests now, but the playing of judge, jury and executioner for Metro Transit isn’t doing him any favours. It’s just more of the same that helped get us where we are now.
By all accounts Little was a hilarious guy and popular driver. His death was tragic and avoidable. It’s easy to point fingers, but it’s better to try to prevent this from happening again.
– Paul McLeod is a staff reporter at Metro Halifax. He is currently in rehab for being a political junkie. It’s going badly.