Pa­rade pre­cau­tions

The Packet (Clarenville) - - Front page -

The heart-wrench­ing tragedy in Yar­mouth, Nova Scotia last Satur­day left peo­ple across the re­gion shak­ing their heads in dis­be­lief. How could such a happy event like a Christ­mas pa­rade re­sult in such a hor­ri­ble ac­ci­dent in the blink of an eye?

As it turns out, very eas­ily.

The death of a four-year-old girl left the fam­ily stricken and town shaken. The en­tire At­lantic re­gion and be­yond grieves with the fam­ily of McCali Cormier. She fell un­der a float and was fa­tally in­jured in full view of scores of hor­ri­fied on­look­ers.

The ac­ci­dent leaves mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, po­lice de­part­ments, pa­rade or­ga­niz­ers and vol­un­teers ask­ing if such a sim­i­lar tragedy could hap­pen in their com­mu­nity. The an­swer is yes.

The po­ten­tial for an ac­ci­dent lurks ev­ery­where. Many Christ­mas pa­rades wait un­til dusk or dark to be­gin, to add ex­tra sparkle for the lights and dec­o­ra­tions on floats. But it makes them more dan­ger­ous. It’s harder for driv­ers to see; chil­dren get caught up in the ex­cite­ment and want to get closer for a bet­ter view; and par­ents are dis­tracted. If there is ice or snow on streets or side­walks, it makes things even more dan­ger­ous.

At the same time as tragedy struck in Yar­mouth, it was nar­rowly averted in Char­lot­te­town where city po­lice de­layed the start of the Christ­mas pa­rade by more than 35 min­utes as po­lice scram­bled to se­cure the pa­rade route. Im­pa­tient driv­ers ig­nored bar­ri­cades and drove down the pa­rade’s main av­enue, putting peo­ple at risk.

A story ear­lier this week in the Hal­i­fax Chron­i­cle-Her­ald sug­gests that pa­rades are largely un­reg­u­lated and in many cases, are an ac­ci­dent wait­ing to hap­pen. There are no stan­dard reg­u­la­tions for main­tain­ing pa­rade safety in Nova Scotia, nor across most ju­ris­dic­tions in North Amer­ica, says Vir­ginia res­i­dent Ron Me­lan­son. He founded pa­rade­safety.org to get reg­u­la­tions in place on pa­rades, hayrides, sleigh rides etc. af­ter he saw a woman killed when a trailer broke free.

RCMP say, that on av­er­age, 22 peo­ple across North Amer­ica are killed an­nu­ally at pa­rades or hayrides. De­spite those alarm­ing sta­tis­tics, there is a re­luc­tance to take ac­tion to en­sure the safety of spec­ta­tors and par­tic­i­pants in pa­rades. Pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments and mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties have to co-op­er­ate and in­sist on ba­sic, stan­dard­ized, safety reg­u­la­tions. No one wants to curb the happy trap­pings of the hol­i­day sea­son, but it’s bet­ter to err on the side of cau­tion, than see an­other tragedy oc­cur.

On Thurs­day, the Nova Scotia gov­ern­ment took pro­gres­sive ac­tion, un­der­tak­ing an im­me­di­ate re­view of pa­rade per­mits and how to im­prove safety con­di­tions. The prov­ince said it’s not enough to place re­spon­si­bil­ity for safety onto pa­rade or­ga­niz­ers; both gov­ern­ment and mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties need to be more dili­gent en­forc­ing safety mea­sures. Other At­lantic prov­inces should fol­low Nova Scotia’s ex­am­ple on this ur­gent mat­ter.

The death of McCali Cormier de­mands that all stake­hold­ers sit down and come up with com­mon sense reg­u­la­tions and pre­cau­tions at pa­rades in At­lantic Canada to en­sure that other fam­i­lies are spared tragedy.

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