A rural Manitoba school division official says it borders on ludicrous that a bus driver would bring a firearm with him on his route.
"It's so far out of what's acceptable," Ray Derksen, chief superintendent of the huge Frontier school division that covers most of northern and eastern Manitoba, told CBC News Friday following reports from RCMP that a 52-year-old man would be facing firearms charges.
"It borders on ludicrous that someone would even think that this was remotely acceptable to do."
Derksen said a principal contacted RCMP Thursday, after students arrived at their school and reported what they saw on their bus.
"The kids were really good," Derksen said. "The kids were very responsible. The kids knew what was right and what was wrong in this situation and they brought it forward to us."
Derksen said the driver's future would be dealt with as an internal matter, "but needless to say, we can't have people doing this sort of thing."
Police said about 20 youngsters were on the bus on the day in question. They attend school in Rorketon, Man., a community about 315 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg.
Sgt. Line Karpish, a spokeswoman for the RCMP, would not say Saturday if the gun was loaded, noting that type of information would be part of the police investigation.
"Whether or not it was loaded is immaterial," Karpish said. "It is completely inappropriate."
The name of the driver has not been officially disclosed, pending a court appearance set for Feb. 22 in Dauphin, Man.
Police arrested the driver at his home in the rural municipality of Lawrence. They also seized a number of firearms.
Derksen said the driver was a fill-in employee, hired by the school division on a casual basis, who had been driving a bus on as-needed basis for several years.
"In this particular case, there was actually not a criminal-record check done," Derksen said, explaining that the driver had been doing the work for over 20 years.
He added a check might not have identified problems with the driver. "Whether or not that would prevent a situation like this occurring, is debatable," he noted, adding that the division will be looking into the status of long-term employees based on this experience.
"The whole situation was very concerning," Derksen said. "A huge lapse of judgment on behalf of the individual. The whole thing took us really by surprise and we were quite shocked."
A note was sent home with students Thursday telling them about what had happened. The parents of the children on the bus were all contacted directly.
No information was available as to why the driver might have been carrying a firearm.
Derksen said he was incredulous over the matter.
"With all the awareness that we do, and the training we're very safety conscious," he said. "So to hear that somebody has not, obviously, got that message is concerning."