An Agassiz bus driver’s petition to get seatbelts installed in Canadian school buses has now reached the House of Commons.
Gary Lillico, a bus driver in the Agassiz area who is currently on medical leave, first brought forward a petition to get seatbelts on school buses in October of 2018. Within weeks, his petition had reached more than 20,000 online signatures.
“I got in the bus on the first day, and I put the seatbelt on,” the 62-year-old driver said. “I turn around, and I look, and there’s no seatbelts for the kids.
“I get it in public transit,” he added. “There’s millions of people pouring on and off every stop. But kids, you know … if it gets a side impact, the kids on one side go right to the other side” of the bus.
Lillico’s efforts took his petition to CBC’s The Fifth Estate, where the investigative television series examined of the possible issues with the current standard for school buses, and he brought his concerns to the B.C. provincial government as well.
“I wrote (provincial transportation minister) Claire Trevena,” Lillico said. “No response. I wrote (provincial minister of public safety) Mike Farnworth, and after quite a lengthy time, I got an email from somebody … saying what all the rules and regulations were.”
“So B.C. hasn’t been real responsive,” he added. “You start close, and I didn’t really get anything there.”
Now, Lillico has is petition before the House of Commons in hopes that the federal government will be able to make some changes for students going to and from school.
Alberta MP Rachael Harder is the sponsor for the online petition, which currently has nearly 700 signatures from across the country. Harder’s Lethbridge, Alta. riding is a few hundred kilometres away from the town of Rimbey, where a Grade 12 student died during a 2008 school bus crash.
Lillico’s petition will remain open until June 8. After then, it will be certified by the Clerk of Petitions and presented in the House of Commons. The government will table a response to the petition at that time.
What does Lillico hope that response will be?
“At the very least, seatbelts being mandated at least some time in the future, or in new buses,” he said.
Currently, the federal government has regulations in place for people who choose to put seatbelts on school buses. But installing belts can be costly, especially for contractors with multiple vehicles.
“It’s an expensive proposition,” he said, but added that if all the provinces and the federal government chipped in, it’s possible it could be done.
Lillico’s petition will be available online until June 8, at 2:04 p.m. (PDT) at petitions.ourcommons.ca/en/Petition/Details?Petition=e-2143.