Folks at the Ermineskin Cree Nation unveiled the winners of their seatbelt awareness poster competition Monday, Feb. 22. (l-r) Const.Nicholas Fetterman, first Place Winner-Nolan Omeasoo-Minde - Grade 2 Ermineskin Elm, Kokum Lucinda Minde, mother of the winner Nicole Minde, and Constable Lin Tuapolo. Photo submitted

Committee of MPs decides against calling for school-bus seatbelts

Committee’s final report includes a number of recommendations to beef up safety requirements

A committee of MPs who probed bus-passenger safety in Canada has decided not to call for seatbelts to be installed in Canadian school buses, urging further study instead.

The House of Commons transportation committee launched an investigation into bus safety, including on school buses, following the deadly Humboldt Broncos crash in Saskatchewan last year that killed 16 people and injured 13.

The committee’s final report includes a number of recommendations to beef up safety requirements for passenger buses, including long-distance coaches and municipal transit buses.

But the committee says conflicting evidence from experts about seatbelts on school buses points to the need for further study.

READ MORE: Coroner calls for seatbelts on buses following Humboldt crash

“Throughout this study, the committee heard from witnesses about the complexity of evaluating potential improvements to bus passenger safety,” the report says.

“It was made clear to members that there is no ‘silver bullet’ that will definitively increase safety in all situations. Although seatbelts would undoubtedly prevent some serious injuries or fatalities, they are not the only solution to ensuring the safety of bus passengers in Canada.”

The issue of installing seatbelts on school buses has indeed proved to be polarizing.

Industry groups that represent bus companies say the current design of school buses already makes them among the safest modes of transportation. Transport Department officials presented evidence that reinforcing the structure of school buses to support three-point seatbelts could undermine the compartmentalization system that helps school buses absorb an impact — a change that could increase the risk of injury.

Unions and associations that represent bus drivers raised concerns about liability when it comes to making sure children are properly belted for trips to and from school. They also said mandatory seatbelts on school buses would have significant operational impacts, such as an increase in transit times, which could exacerbate an ongoing driver shortage.

Cost is another complaint, with estimates for retrofitting school buses pegged at anywhere between $8,000 and $20,000 per bus.

In January, Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced a task force to look at the possibility of retrofitting school buses with seatbelts. It has involved the input of provinces, territories, school boards and school-bus manufacturers.

As part of its submission to the committee, the Ontario School Bus Association stressed the need for the task force to be given adequate time to complete a proper study, warning that a hurried probe would undermine the goal of making children on buses safer.

The committee said it supports the work of the task force and encouraged the government to “seriously consider” implementing any recommendations it generates.

But parents and concerned citizens across the country who have been calling for belts are getting impatient at being told to wait for more studies.

They point to deadly crashes over the years where children have died or sustained serious injuries in school bus collisions.

Gary Lillico, a bus driver in British Columbia, has amassed over 99,000 signatures on a Change.org petition calling for mandatory school bus seatbelts. He also recently helped organize a last-minute petition to be tabled in the House of Commons in the hopes of getting the government to act before the end of the school year.

He says he is disappointed MPs are passing the buck on this issue despite the evidence they heard.

“It’s very upsetting that, after eight months, that they’re just pushing this aside,” Lillico said of the committee’s findings.

“What is it going to take? How many lives? With the time they’ve had, there should be much more result.”

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A “once in a decade comet” now visible in night sky

Comet F3 (NEOWISE) well placed below the Big Dipper to see and photograph over the next few of weeks

Provincial COVID-19 data can now be used for B.C. to prepare for a second wave

In the past week, B.C. has seen a slight spike in daily test-positive case counts

VIA Rail lays off 1,000 unionized workers across the country

Northern B.C. route Jasper to Prince George to Prince Rupert is not affected by VIA Rail layoffs

District of Barriere Utilities Manager reports to council on Barriere wells

District of Barriere Utilities Manager Ian Crosson presented a verbal report during… Continue reading

How Blue River’s Community Garden bloomed into existence

For about six years now the Blue River Community Garden has seen… Continue reading

Islanders want BC Ferries to follow order that lets residents board before tourists

For ferry-dependent communities, ferries are often the sole practical lifeline to work, school or medical appointments.

Beverly Hills 90210 star’s family selling Vancouver Island Beach Resort

You can own Jason Priestley’s Terrace Beach Resort in Ucluelet for less than $5 million

Genetic detectives begin work to trace spread of COVID-19 in Canada

The kinds of genetic technology being used for this project did not exist when SARS hit Canada in 2003

Sports fishers protest Fraser River Chinook closures

Public Fishery Alliance wants hatchery fish open for harvest

Amber Alert for two Quebec girls cancelled after bodies found

Romy Carpentier, 6, Norah Carpentier, 11, and their father, Martin Carpentier, missing since Wednesday

B.C. man prepares to be first to receive double-hand transplant in Canada

After the surgery, transplant patients face a long recovery

Grocers appear before MPs to explain decision to cut pandemic pay

Executives from three of Canada’s largest grocery chains have defended their decision to end temporary wage increases

Bringing support to Indigenous students and communities, while fulfilling a dream

Mitacs is a nonprofit organization that operates research and training programs

Most Read