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LETTER: We must ensure parades are safe for our children

MaCali Cormier died after she fell under a parade float in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, on Saturday, Nov. 24. She was four.
MaCali Cormier died after she fell under a parade float in Yarmouth, N.S. on Saturday, Nov. 24. She was four. — Family photo

I am writing this letter on behalf of the most vulnerable of human beings whose safety we, as adults, hold an inherently high degree of responsibility to ensure.

I write this letter on behalf of a four-year-old girl who met an untimely death on Nov. 24, 2018.

I am a mother of a soon-to-be four-year-old son. I am certain that any mother reading this letter comprehends the deep, indescribable, powerful love that a mother feels for her child.

I write this letter to speak up for this four-year-old girl and to give her a voice. I am tired of hearing repeatedly the opinion that it is a tragedy: of course it is a tragedy. But what’s more, it was a colossal failure of all of us to meet a bare minimum standard of the safety required to maintain a little girl’s physical safety on Saturday night at a function in Yarmouth, N.S.

Our city of St. John’s, last Sunday, held an authentic Santa Claus parade in the daylight at a time young children are not tired and have not been waiting all day to see Santa. It was very much unlike what happened in Yarmouth.

As a lawyer’s assistant I wait for all the facts, and clearly at this point we are very limited in terms of the facts as to what happened.

But, we are not that limited.

There is but one fact that is utterly, undeniably incontrovertible.

It was dark.

Darkness, pedestrians, and vehicles are a toxic mix. When the pedestrian is a four-year-old child, it becomes fatal.

All reports on the Yarmouth incident state that this occurred just before 7 p.m. As a mother of a three-year-old son, 7 p.m. is very near his bedtime, and a time my son is certainly not in the state of mind to take in or to enjoy a Santa Claus Parade.

The lawyer that I am volunteering for often sends me out to Mount Pearl to obtain motor vehicle collision reports.

These reports are very well done by our own Royal Newfoundland Constabulary. They comment on lighting conditions especially. Now I know why. Darkness increases risk that a pedestrian will be hit by a vehicle.

If we, as adults, cannot ensure the safety of a four-year-old girl at a Santa Claus parade, then we are not making much progress.

And if anyone dares blame her parents for bringing their little girl to a Santa Claus parade, don’t. The unbelievable amount of grief that they will have to endure for the rest of their lives, none of us can comprehend.

In Yarmouth, N.S., on Nov. 24th, 2018, the sun set at 4:51 p.m.

According to my research, by 6:33 p.m. in Yarmouth, that little four-year-old girl was in total darkness.

And if anyone dares blame her parents for bringing their little girl to a Santa Claus parade, don’t. The unbelievable amount of grief that they will have to endure for the rest of their lives, none of us can comprehend.

Put yourself in the shoes of a four-year-old girl who has waited all day to see Santa Claus. She may have been tired, she may have been hungry, she may have been over-excited.

That little girl, in her state of anticipation, may simply have made a run towards a float.

But one thing is for sure: she simply wasn’t visible.

She wasn’t visible, not enough.

As I am writing this, I am replaying videos that I took Sunday at the St. John’s parade and I can (in a very sombre way, however, given the comparison of what happened in Yarmouth to the success of the parade in St. John’s) commend our city. What I saw was a lot of room, not too many floats, lots of exciting, talented dancers, slowly moving vehicles and a lot of security walking alongside, guarding and protecting, continuously turning their heads side to side, acting as sentinels to the lucky children who attended the St. John’s parade.

Hats off to the RNC, to the firefighters, and to those walking security personnel whose sole purpose, unbeknownst to the children who were attending, was to protect them.

May the light of this four-year-old perfect little angel shine brightly down on her parents and keep her family safe and strong.

Lee M. Brown
St. John’s

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