Thursday, October 18, 2012

Toronto Star: Van Angels: Mothers who lost children hope to ban passenger vans

Isabelle Hains and Stella Gurr

Published on Thursday October 18, 2012
Richard J. Brennan
National Affairs Writer
This article appeared in the Toronto Star on-line

Isabelle Hains says it’s hard to believe most provinces and territories still allow 15-passenger vans to carry students and others when Transport Canada has shown the chances of dying in an accident are greater than in other vehicles.

“It boggles my mind why they just haven’t got rid of these cargo cans,” which she told the Toronto Star Thursday were never designed to carry people.

But even so Hains and Stella Gurr, both of whom lost children in accidents involving these vans, are optimistic that day is coming, due in large part to their relentless Van Angels campaign.

“If you look at the testing there is more chance of death and injury in the 15-passenger vans,” Gurr said.

Hains’ 17-year-old son Daniel was killed in 2008 along with six other teenage players from the Bathurst High School Phantoms basketball team along with the coach’s wife. Gurr, of Nanaimo, B.C., lost her 26 year-old son Michael when he was killed in a 15-passenger van rollover near Brandon, Manitoba eight months after the New Brunswick tragedy.

The two mothers met with the federal Transport Minister Denis LeBel, Wednesday in Fredericton to discuss their concerns about student and small group transportation.

During the meeting Hains and Gurr raised the issue of 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 its report today to the provincial deputy ministers and ministers of transport.

“We feel that Mr. LeBel and his provincial and territorial counterparts across Canada have taken our concerns seriously,” said Gurr in a news release, adding Hains and her “have hope that student and small group transportation in Canada will be undergoing some positive changes in the near future.”

A 2010 safety test conducted by Transport Canada showed that the survival rate for occupants of a 15-passenger can involved in a crash were less than a multi-functional activity bus, which look like a miniature school bus specifically designed to carry passengers.

“It clearly shows you have a lesser chance of survival in a 15-passenger van,” Gurr told the Star. “It was never designed to carry humans.”

The two women noted that while the Transport Canada test results are crucial to their case, in the end it is up to the provinces and territories to decide on their own whether they will join New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Quebec in outlawing these large vans for passenger use.