Two mothers whose sons were killed in 15-passenger van collisions in New Brunswick and Manitoba met with the federal Minister of Transport, Denis LeBel, in Fredericton to discuss their concerns about student and small group transportation.
“We are encouraged by our meeting with Minister LeBel,” said Isabelle Hains of Bathurst. Hains’ son, Daniel, was 17 years-old when he was killed along with six other teenaged players from the Bathurst High School Phantoms basketball team and the coach’s wife. Hains was in Fredericton with Stella Gurr of Nanaimo, British Columbia. Gurr’s 26 year-old son, Michael, was killed in a 15-passenger van rollover near Brandon, Manitoba eight months after the Boys in Red tragedy and the mothers have since led the call for banning the vehicles across Canada.
“We feel that Mr. LeBel and his Provincial and Territorial counterparts across Canada have taken our concerns seriously,” said Mrs. Gurr, adding that she and Hains have “have hope that student and small group transportation in Canada will be undergoing some positive changes in the near future.”
The mothers met with Mr. LeBel, the Deputy Minister and other senior staff members of Transport Canada who were in Fredericton for the Council of Ministers and Deputy Ministers of Transportation annual conference. Two years ago, Hains and Gurr, along with other transportation safety activists, met with the former Minister of Transport, Chuck Strahl, and many of the provincial and territorial Ministers of Transport when they were in Halifax for the Council’s annual meeting. At that meeting, the mothers requested that Transport Canada include crashworthiness testing in its safety review of vans used for student transportation that had been initiated by his predecessor, John Baird, in June, 2010.
“The testing by Transport Canada confirmed our beliefs that fatalaties and injuries are greater in 15-passenger vans,” said Hains. “Every parent wants their child to be safe and this study proves what we have been saying all along – that 15-passenger vans should not be used to transport students and they should not be used to transport anybody else, including small groups such as children in daycares, kindergarten, church and sports groups as well as seniors.”
Gurr says that vehicles should be manufactured with a “reasonable chance of occupant survivability. It is the key to saving lives.”
Issues raised by Hains and Gurr during the meeting with Minister LeBel included a proposed “national approach” to safe transportation of students and small groups that came out of the findings of the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA), which presented their report today to the Deputy Ministers and Ministers of Transport.
Another important issue is the proposed new definition of Multi-Function Activity Buses (MFABs) as a sub-category of yellow school buses. Mr. LeBel told the mothers that he has written to his provincial and territorial counterparts asking for their feedback on the new definition.
The CCMTA report was held in camera, but will be made public in the future. “At this point, we don’t know what the CCMTA’s recommendations are, nor do we have a timeframe for their implementation,” said Hains.
“But we believe that positive changes to student transportation safety will be coming in the very near future. New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Quebec have already dealt with the issue: now it is in the hands of the provincial and territorial Ministers of Transport.”