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This Ottawa Bus Driver Stepped In When A Muslim Woman Was Being Harassed

"It’s people like this that really give me hope and make me want to continue even when it's hard."

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A 20-year-old university student in Ottawa is sending a big thank you to the bus driver who stepped in when she was being harassed for wearing a niqab.

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Hailey, who did not want to be identified by her full name, told BuzzFeed Canada the incident took place several weeks ago on the way to the mall. She said a man on the bus started making disparaging remarks about her niqab and wouldn't stop.

"He kept calling me a freak and a terrorist. He even yelled at me to assimilate."

That's when the bus driver intervened, saying he'd called the cops. The man who had been harassing Hailey quickly got off the bus.

Hailey was so moved by the gesture that she took a selfie with the bus driver. “I was just so happy. It’s people like this that really give me hope and make me want to continue even when it's hard."

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“It means a lot because oftentimes it’s really easy to be a bystander and just ignore it, [to] let the situation take care of itself," Hailey said.

Hailey, who is studying French and Spanish and hopes to work as a translator one day, describes herself as a carefree person.

"I don’t understand how people can be so rude to you and they don't even know you,” she said of the harassment she received.

Hailey also wrote a letter praising the bus driver, which was published by Muslim Link.

OC Transpo, Ottawa's transit service, says it found the driver and recognized him for his actions.

Operator has been identified & kudos sent to his supervisor! @Muslim_Link https://t.co/UYg7fbGeok

The driver later identified himself on Facebook. Alain Charette said it was his duty to speak up. "Happy to have been able to make a difference when life was challenging me to do it," he said.

Facebook: alain.charette.52

Bigotry hurts people "by lowering the humanity level of society," he said.

"Sitting idle is not an option."

Hailey said she has experienced Islamophobic harassment several times since she converted to Islam almost three years ago.

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She said that another time, when she was wearing a hijab on the bus, it fell to other passengers to stop a drunk man from accosting her while the bus driver ignored it.

She said things got especially bad after the Parliament shooting in 2014.

"Every time something bad happens, you just wonder who's going to take it out on you, even though it wasn't your fault."

She said she's grateful that she has been able to recognize the bus driver for doing the right thing, and she says it's up to everyone to fight bigotry when they see it.

"Personally, if I saw someone else getting attacked I would step in. No matter who they are," she said. "It's my duty as a citizen and as a Canadian to step up."

Ishmael Daro is a social news editor for BuzzFeed and is based in Toronto.

Contact Ishmael N. Daro at ishmael.daro@buzzfeed.com.

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