Adrian Crook is a single dad living in downtown Vancouver. His oldest kids – aged seven, eight, nine and 11 – were taught to take public transit to school every day. So successful were they in their independence that a fellow bus passenger who found the dad on Instagram, recognizing him on a bus with his children, dropped him a complimentary note about his “dad skills” and for teaching his brood how to take transit responsibly.
According to their dad, these kids boarded their bus within view of their living room window and were dropped off directly in front of their school for the past two years, with little incident. In a city that apparently didn’t offer a school bus, this family did exactly what they were supposed to do.
Except an anonymous complaint resulted in a B.C.’s Ministry of Children and Family Development staff member knocking on Crook’s door, wondering why he would allow his kids to go to school on public transit unsupervised.
Rather than challenging the lack of busing provided to and from the children’s school, the government challenged the safety of public transit. After an initial investigation, the ministry cited case law (unrelated to kids without an adult on a public bus) to conclude that children under the age of 10 must be supervised at all times, in and outside the home. This despite bus service provider TransLink indicating there’s no minimal age for transit users, rather that it was “up to the parent.”
Defying the government is risky for any parent, let alone a single dad.
The B.C. government’s stance is stunning and disturbing. In a urban environment, where public amenities are relied upon and heavily funded by government, it would seem that teaching young children to use public transport would be an advantage. And yet the same government that advocates for such services is punishing the parent of child riders.
The message is twofold: public transportation in B.C. is unsafe, and the school system’s increasing environmental messaging to children to go green is a danger to their health and safety.
If the government feels that the public transportation system is far too dangerous for young people to use, then the only alternative is to demand all schools provide busing services for their students.
Ultimately, the nanny state mentality triumphs. Even in the absence of any evidence that Crook’s children were in any danger by riding a public bus to school together, the government decided they were. It’s difficult to understand logic that maintains that a child under the age of 10 is safe walking to school alone but isn’t safe on a public bus with siblings, at least one older. Statistics show that walking to school is far more risky than taking public transportation.
But facts be damned. Government knows best. Apparently parents, in addition to their children, must be supervised by the nanny state.
Crook wrote a blog on his predicament. It wouldn’t surprise me if, as a result, he gets offers of pro bono help from lawyers.
The influence of government over our families has become a red flag and this case screams for a very public response.
Maddie Di Muccio is a former town councillor in Newmarket, Ont., and former columnist with the Toronto Sun.