In an op-ed letter that appeared in Postmedia on Saturday, Tricia Wack, mother of Stephen Wack, forgives the driver of a semi-truck that crashed into the Humboldt Broncos bus on April 6, killing her son and 15 others.
“To Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, I say the following. I forgive you. Since Stephen’s death in the crash that day, I often ask myself, what would Stephen think, say or do? The answers often govern my actions. I can say with conviction that my son Stephen would forgive you. Stephen was a spiritual young man with a strong faith in God; he practiced forgiveness with an open heart and was compassionate by nature,” Wack wrote.
On July 6, Sidhu was charged with 16 counts of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death and 13 counts of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily injury.
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Wack’s heartfelt letter goes on to describe her son and several of his unique qualities.
“Stephen was a 21-year-old, six-foot-five defenceman with a smile and heart to match his size. Above all else, Stephen valued his relationships with God, family, friends and teammates,” Wack wrote.
“While playing out his junior hockey years, Stephen’s intellect and creativity led him to pursue an interest in videography. He proved to be a talented videographer, and he planned to attain a business degree to facilitate his career in the field,” she added.
The grieving mother also writes that the outcome of the charges against Sidhu will not bring closure for her.
“For me personally, however, closure is not dependent on the outcome of the case; I continue to heal and grow through my grief.”
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The letter appeared in several Postmedia outlets, including the Edmonton Journal.
The grieving mother also thanked first responders for their care and attention, and RCMP for their “open communication” throughout the investigation.
Wack’s letter also gives some insight into the pain and healing that fills so much of the family’s grieving process.
“In response to the Humboldt Broncos bus crash, people across our nation have united in love and support. We have felt that; we have found healing and strength in that. And because of that, we now have a voice. I would like to use that voice to unite our nation in enacting positive change, so that the legacy of my son and those on the Broncos bus that fateful day will be carried forward.”
Wack also addressed the need for mandatory seatbelts on buses, specifically the need for shoulder harness seatbelts on all coach buses in Canada. Wack also wrote she would like to see legislation making it compulsory to wear those seatbelts.
“My son Stephen was killed in the Broncos bus crash when he was launched from his seat upon impact, smashing the back of his head and breaking his neck. Envision for a moment, if you will, that being your child or loved one.”
“While the crash scene depicts devastation, look more closely and you will see the majority of bus seats intact. What would the outcome have been if the team had been wearing shoulder harness seatbelts that day?” Wack questions.
“Seatbelts can only save lives if people wear them. Let’s enact law to empower bus drivers and those in authority on buses to facilitate the wearing of those bus belts.”
In July, Transport Canada announced that seatbelts would be mandatory on all medium and larger highway buses starting Sept. 1, 2020.
John Archer, a spokesperson for Alberta Transportation, said the province’s Vehicle Equipment Regulation requires passengers to wear a seatbelt when it is provided, including on buses. The regulation exempts vehicles that were manufactured without seatbelts. It isn’t clear what legislation exists across the rest of the country.
Mike Cassidy, president of Maritime Bus, has been very vocal about the need for wearing seatbelts on highway buses.
“I don’t understand, when you get into a motor coach, why people think they do not have to buckle up,” he said. “The seatbelt is there.”
However, Cassidy admits it would be difficult to enforcement.
“Who is going to enforce? How are they going to enforce? And at what cost is this enforcement?”
Ken Hardie, a Liberal MP from Surrey, B.C., is on the Standing Committee for Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. He has spoken out in the past about the need to study the safety of highway buses and agrees that enforcement will be a big issue.
“If you have a highway coach and an adult refuses to put the belt on, it shouldn’t be up to the driver in that instance or the company involved to make that compliance mandatory,” he said.
“How do you deal with young people? That’s where parents and the company really have to get their heads together with the government to make sure the right regulations are in place.”
This fall, Hardie said the committee will dig more into the specifics of what type of seatbelt is required on highway buses and what other design attributes will make the buses even safer on the roads.
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