Lives mat­ter

The Compass - - EDITORIAL -

The cliffs that frame Western Brook Pond on New­found­land’s west coast of­fer one of the most spec­tac­u­lar vis­tas in Gros Morne Na­tional Park.

As you drive north from the fa­mous land­locked fjord, the cliffs re­cede fur­ther in­land, but are still very much a part of the land­scape by the time you reach the com­mu­nity of Par­son’s Pond.

The town boasts some of the most beau­ti­ful, rugged scenery in the province.

But the peo­ple of Par­son’s Pond weren’t feel­ing es­pe­cially proud last. They were still reel­ing from the drown­ing death of a lo­cal moose hunter.

“Ev­ery­body is hurt to the core right now,” town Coun. Paul Par­sons said last Tues­day.

The man’s body was re­cov­ered from nearby Goos­ney’s Pond. He drowned af­ter the boat he and his fel­low hun­ters were in cap­sized.

Three oth­ers were wear­ing life jack­ets. They man­aged to sur­vive for four hours be­fore they were res­cued. The man who drowned, for what­ever rea­son, was not wear­ing a life jacket.

The Par­son’s Pond tragedy is not unique, nor is the lack of life-jack­ets. Ev­ery year, cabin own­ers, hun­ters and oth­ers take to the wa­ters of this province with­out ben­e­fit of these life-sav­ing de­vices.

You see it hap­pen all the time. You may even be one of them. You’re just cruis­ing along the shore to shoot a cou­ple of birds, or skim­ming across the pond to visit so-and-so. You may not bother with a life-jacket at all, or you may just leave it sit­ting in the hull of the boat.

We are all vic­tims of this reck­less be­hav­iour, be­cause so many of us are guilty of it. Only fate de­cides which ones pay the ul­ti­mate price. Even though nine out of 10 drown­ing vic­tims were not wear­ing life- jack­ets, the mes­sage doesn’t seem to sink in. Old habits die hard.

Ev­ery recre­ational ves­sel in this coun­try is re­quired by law to have the same num­ber of ap­proved life-jack­ets on board as pas­sen­gers. But the law does not re­quire pas­sen­gers to ac­tu­ally wear them.

Pre­dictably, this means that the num­ber of drown­ing deaths in Canada that oc­cur when a jacket was avail­able but not worn has been go­ing up.

As the Cana­dian Red Cross puts it, a seat­belt will not re­strain you in a crash if you’re not wear­ing it.

The cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing the Par­sons Pond death have not been re­vealed. And there’s no telling whether a life-jacket would have nec­es­sar­ily saved the man. But that’s not re­ally the point. The point is that count­less fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties around the province have ex­pe­ri­enced the same gutwrench­ing grief that those in Par­sons Pond are feel­ing right now.

Any­thing that might spare oth­ers from the pain - in­clud­ing tougher laws and en­force­ment - can only be a good thing.

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