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Hailey DeJong, Muslim Student, Thanks Ottawa Bus Driver For Calling Out Passenger

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A Muslim student in Ottawa says she is "deeply appreciative" of a bus driver who stood up to a passenger spewing hateful remarks.

In a post on Muslim Link, an online newspaper based in the capital, Hailey DeJong describes the incident on a recent trip on an OC Transpo bus. The 20-year-old, who began wearing a niqab in October 2015, was on her way to shop at the Rideau Centre mall.

DeJong said she heard a man on the bus talking about her to other passengers. "She could be a bank robber or something and we don't even know!" she noted him saying.

'I was angry'

Despite other passengers telling him to get off the bus, the man wouldn't stop. He referred to DeJong as a "freak" and a "terrorist."

"I was angry, but you can't respond to hate with more hate, so I tried to keep it cool and just to explain to him," she told CBC News.

Then she heard a "booming voice" from the front of the bus.

Enter Alain Charette.

"You are either part of the problem or on the side of the solution."

"Hey! If you've got a problem with her, then you've got a problem with me!" the bus driver told the man, according to DeJong.

The man then tried to remedy the situation, saying he loved Muslims, Christians and Jews. He left the bus after Charette told him he had called the cops.

"It's very easy to be a bystander in situations like this, particularly as a bus driver, but the bus driver I want to thank responded quickly and professionally to the situation at hand," DeJong wrote. "He deserves to be recognized for his courage."

'Sitting idle is not an option'

Charette wrote on Facebook that he was "overwhelmed" by the attention the story has brought him. His employer said that "kudos" were sent to his supervisor.

"Bigotry hurt everyone by lowering the humanity level of society. Sitting idle is not an option," Charette wrote. "You are either part of the problem or on the side of the solution."

Charette and DeJong took a selfie after the incident, as she "wanted to raise awareness that these things happen."

She told CBC News what Charette did was "super courageous and I can't thank him enough," and hopes to meet him again soon.

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