August 15, 2018 6:42 pm
Updated: August 16, 2018 4:02 pm

Danielle Smith: Humboldt GoFundMe litigation tests donors’ patience

WATCH: GoFundMe for Humboldt Broncos is first test of Saskatchewan's crowdfunding law

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Now that government regulators and lawyers have gotten a hold of the Humboldt GoFundMe campaign, there is great danger this incredible act of public generosity is going to end on a sour note.

The GoFundMe campaign appeal seemed simple enough.

Sylvie Kellington, a resident of Humboldt and a hockey mom herself, said: “Please help us raise money for the players and families affected. The money will go directly to families to help with any expenses incurred.”

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When the campaign raised more than anyone could have ever expected, they closed it down at $15.2 million and redirected people who wanted to support the Broncos to a different website. They also reiterated that the funds donated through the campaign would be “transferred to a non-profit, to be allocated for their intended purpose, only to the 29 families of those who were injured or lost their lives.”

But prior to this, the Saskatchewan government and members of the legal community had decided that GoFundMe campaigns were too chaotic, so the government decided to regulate them. Now, this is a test case for how the new laws will work.

A lawyer has been hired by the fund to go to court to request a modest interim payment to the families – $50,000 – and permission to appoint an advisory group to give recommendations to the board on how it should be distributed. That’s expected to take months. Then the recommendations will have to return to court for final approval.

READ MORE: Interim GoFundMe payments in Humboldt Broncos crash approved by judge

I can almost guarantee the outcome will satisfy no one.

Guardian Law lawyer Mathew Farrell helped walk through some of the legal issues they will now have to deal with. For instance, causing a death is worse than causing an injury, so it could be argued that those who died should get more compensation. Except living with a disability is more costly than dying, so it could be argued those players with injuries should get more.

There are some players who were injured but are already back to playing hockey and coaching. Maybe they should get less than the others. Then again, survive guilt can also be debilitating.

LISTEN: Danielle Smith speaks with a lawyer to find out how the Humboldt Broncos could be distributed 

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Some had insurance payouts or additional fundraisers to help them out. Maybe they should get less.

Or perhaps the total payout to families should be capped, because the amount raised was enormous, and the rest should go to some community purpose, such as building a new arena in Humboldt.

My fear is that with all the lawyers, advisers, committees and regulators “helping” to sort it all out, there is going to be a whole lot less to distribute to anyone by the time all is said and done.

READ MORE: Court hearing on Humboldt Broncos fundraising a first under Saskatchewan law

The fund was established April 16. Now it’s August 16. That’s four months. I could have figured out how to distribute the funds in four seconds.

There were 29 people on the bus, 13 killed and 16 injured. Each one gets 1/29 of the pot or $524,137 each. Let each family decide how to best take care of their living loved ones or honour those who died.

It may not be perfect, but I suspect if you asked most people who contributed money to the fund, they weren’t expecting it to be caught up in delays due to legal wrangling. The saddest part is, if this drags on too long, it will make it harder to raise funds the next time tragedy strikes.

Watch below from July: The father of Humboldt Broncos’ Jaxon Joseph, Chris Joseph, thanked the hockey players and organizers of a charity hockey tournament for their work on helping “pick up” the families of players following the fatal bus crash and for their constant support.

Danielle Smith can be reached at danielle@770chqr.com

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