On Tuesday, September 16, at approximately 7:30 a.m., a Red Deer Catholic school bus, heading east on Highway 11, turned left, or north, onto 60th Street, Sylvan Lake, into the path of a westbound water truck. A violent crash ensued — the bus was struck over the passenger side rear tires.
Fortunately, there was but one student on the bus who, although shaken, was not seriously injured. The bus and truck drivers also escaped relatively unharmed. Police, ambulance, and fire crews all responded to the incident.
This was my son’s school bus. He waited that morning for his bus to appear, and when it didn’t, my wife drove him to school. We did not receive any notification from Red Deer Catholic Schools about the accident.
Later that morning, I emailed the principal of my son’s school to express concern for his safety, and to inquire about the bus operator’s driving record. The principal sent me a copy of the police report, which she said would demonstrate that the bus driver was not at fault. It was upon reviewing the report that I quickly realized that the driver was clearly at fault, having executed an unsafe left-hand turn. Moreover, the police report clearly indicated that charges were pending.
Alarmed that Red Deer Catholic Schools might actually believe that the driver was not at fault, I cc’ed my reply to the principal to the Superintendent of Schools, who thereafter answered all my email inquiries. He was dismissive of my concerns, warned that parents in the Sylvan Lake community might be engaging “misinformation,” and, in response to my statement that my son would not ride the bus until this matter was cleared up, told me I was free to either use the bus service or not. Later that day, the principals of both Sylvan Lake Catholic Schools released, presumably under the direction of the Superintendent, a letter to parents that stated that the bus driver was not charged in relation to the accident.
By this time, my initial alarm had turned to anger, and I called the RCMP detachment. I was put in touch with the very professional and thorough Corporal Halwa, who was surprised to learn that the Superintendent of Schools had issued such a letter; he had charged the bus driver that morning under section 34(2) of the Use of Highway and Rules of the Road Regulations.
A conversation between the Superintendent and him ensued, and Red Deer Catholic, to its shame, had to retract the first letter and send out a corrective letter on Thursday— three full school days after the incident. But to add insult to injury, parents had still not been told if the driver would continue to transport their children to school.
When I went on to point out this further gaffe to the Superintendent, he updated the school website pages to say that the driver was suspended from duties until Red Deer Catholic Schools completed its own “internal investigation” of the incident. Say, what? Its own internal investigation?? The bus driver had executed an unsafe left-hand turn, totalled a bus (I presume), and been charged by the RCMP. Had that bus been full of students — my son usually sits right at the point of impact — I shudder to think what Sylvan Lake might be experiencing right now. What is to investigate? Does Red Deer Catholic Schools somehow think it might be possible to generate a verdict that would supersede the RCMP charge?
Sometimes, we are shocked by what happens to our society’s leaders. They can become surprisingly impressed by their own power, and come to see themselves as somehow immune to the laws of nature and society that so strictly govern the rest of us.
Our provincial Tories are currently struggling to convince us all that they can recover from this sense of entitlement and privilege they came to assume was a birthright. Let us all, especially us Catholic citizens, work hard to purge this same indifference from our own leadership, and let us all, from the greatest of us to the least, strive to model our conduct and demeanour on the service and humility of the Founder of our Church.
Perhaps it was His providence and design that kept this accident from being the total disaster it might have been, but let’s not miss the wake-up call.
Alger J.C. Libby,