The recent tragic bus crash that took the lives of 16 people travelling with the Humboldt Broncos has rightfully shaken many Canadians.
Popular folklore would present us as a “hockey nation," one where our national sport forges bonds that transcend provincial and territorial borders, race, or even class. The outpouring of support towards the bereaved is understandable and historic. Parents who see their children off on buses en route to sporting events expect them to return home safely. This truth is a major factor behind the collective sympathy offered to the prairie families that have had their lives forever shattered by a deadly collision at a dangerous country road intersection.
The survivors and victims of this crash deserve every ounce of compassion and solidarity they have received. May other grieving families and communities one day be supported as strongly in times of struggle, or at the very least, seen.
It is not, however, the sole factor. As Quebec City writer and organizer Nora Loreto pointed out on Twitter Sunday evening, “the maleness, the youthfulness and the whiteness of the victims are… playing a significant role. I don’t want less for the families and survivors of this tragedy. I want justice and more for so many other grieving parents and communities.”
Loreto’s tweets were a response to news that a GoFundMe for the families of the victims had raised four million dollars after having started off a few hours earlier with a $10,000 goal. That number has since risen to over eight million dollars, making it the most successful GoFundMe campaign in Canadian history. Her tweets have since garnered a flood of furious public and private responses, including death threats and wishes of bodily harm.
Final word from me on this today: people are getting off work, things are accelerating, I've received one threat about my location tonight, still more calls, messages and emails. And the people sticking up for me, with no platform and no job security: thanks infinitely. pic.twitter.com/RGVnC6qSG9— Nora Loreto (@NoLore) April 11, 2018
It has solicited the ire of Ontario Proud and of Jason Kenney, the leader of the United Conservative Party in Alberta. Others have set out on a mission to get her fired, despite the fact that she is self-employed.
Many accuse Loreto of attempting to be “edgy” in order to garner greater notoriety as a writer and commentator. But is her analysis that extreme? Loreto’s tweet does not diminish or besmirch the memory of the victims of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash. It simply raises some important questions.
Namely, why do we rally more around certain communities in times of tragedy as opposed to others?
Can we genuinely imagine that a hypothetical tragedy involving racialized teenagers returning home from a badminton tournament or some other sporting event less esteemed in our national consciousness would have received a similar treatment? It certainly would garner sympathy, and people would very likely talk about it for a day or two around the water cooler at work, but do we believe over 100,000 people would have raised over eight million dollars for them in four days? Frankly, I’m not even so sure a team of young Northern Indigenous hockey players would. When 10 migrant workers were killed in a bus accident in rural southern Ontario in 2012, there was no national campaign, no fundraiser, and the three survivors had to fight to be able to stay in Canada.
The Humboldt Broncos crash is heartbreaking and the families and survivors absolutely deserve support.
But the outpouring of sympathy they've received in Canada isn't always present in other tragedies. The crowdfunding campaign for the family of Pierre Coriolan, a black man killed by Montréal police, has reached less than 50 per cent of its $20,000 goal to help the family cover the legal costs of seeking justice for their loved one. What of the 32 seniors who perished in the 2014 L’Isle-Verte nursing home fire? Not to mention the families of over a thousand missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
Do people fear that admitting there is some truth to Loreto’s claim about unequal treatment do tragedies may make them “a racist,” as though racism were a binary and not a spectrum?
Is it beyond the scope of possibility that part of the answer is the identity of the victims and how it consciously or subconsciously influences our feelings and actions? What does it say about our country that such reflections are met with (often male) violence and rage?
What will it take for us to be able to express such concerns without fear of being attacked and harassed by a legion of regressive, “I don’t see colour” patriotic Canadian chest-thumpers? What can we do to make acts of solidarity the norm in these situations of mourning, and not solely a gift reserved for traditionally whiter Canadian communities?
Let me conclude by being as explicit as Loreto was: the survivors and victims of this crash deserve every ounce of compassion and solidarity they have received. May other grieving families and communities one day be supported as strongly in times of struggle, or at the very least, seen.