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Our Letter to Mitzi Dean, BC Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Equity

April 2, 2020

RE: The Impact of Wrongful Death & No-Fault Legislation on Vulnerable Groups

Dear Secretary Dean,

My name is Michael-James Pennie and I’m the President of the BC Wrongful Death Law Reform Society. I’ve volunteered for the Society for the past 5 years and I’m passionately dedicated to making the province safer and more dignified for all of its citizens. Our organization was formed in 2015, although the families behind it have been fighting for more than a decade prior.

I’m writing to you today to formally introduce our organization to you, and secondly to inform you of a massive inequity in both our current and upcoming proposed legislation that we felt pertinent to bring to your attention.

I met with MLA Routledge on June 5th, 2019 who recommended that I get in touch with you. You may have also heard about our organization when Minister Eby introduced us at Question Period on the 23rd of October 2019.

You have also heard from four of your constituents in your local riding who have contacted you about the issue of wrongful death legislation throughout the month of March 2020. To date, in just the past month, over 50,000 British Columbians have seen our viral video educating them on the issue of our antiquated wrongful death laws in the province.

Our organization is actively campaigning to have our 174-year-old wrongful death legislation modernized. Presently, only income earners who have dependents have worth under the law. Income earners who do not have dependents, or even non-income earners who do have dependents, presently have no value. This discriminatory law especially affects vulnerable groups such as children, seniors, and the disabled, as under the current legislation they are presently valued as worthless.

All of the other provinces and the Yukon have already modernized their wrongful death legislation in many cases long ago.

We believe that creating deterrence in order to save lives first starts at ensuring dignity and protection under the law for all citizens. Only when it is not so cheap to kill in BC, can we begin with a solid foundation of incentive to make our province safer for its citizens.

I have attached to this email the ‘Wrongful Death Accountability Act Briefing Note’ to better educate and inform you on this issue.

The second issue we wish to bring to your attention is the fact that the proposed no-fault insurance legislation will significantly and negatively impact women at a rate far greater than that of men.

Our Society is actively campaigning to not only ensure adequate protections for all under the law, but to prevent negligent and wrongful conduct in the first place through general deterrence mechanisms. We want to save lives.

Research shows that the odds for women being seriously injured in a frontal motor vehicle crash are 73% greater than they are for men, even when both are wearing seat belts.*

Female drivers and front passengers are also 17% more likely to be killed in a motor vehicle crash than male occupants of the same age.*

*Source: Keith Barry, ConsumerReports.org October 23, 2019

As we understand it, the proposed no-fault legislation provides no pain and suffering compensation to victims in order to be made whole again.

Where I personally find this relatable is with respect to my Mother, who had an otherwise near flawless driving record and was rear-ended twice in 2012.

She was athletic and healthy, and as a result of the first accident, and even further aggravated by the second, endured a life of chronic back pain for a number of years. She was forced to stop jogging, gained weight, and was subsequently put on blood pressure medication. Due to increased blood pressure, her eye hemorrhaged and she was required to have laser surgery. As a result of these two accidents, the course of her general health and wellness was irreversibly altered. Her quality of life was diminished, and I’m certain this will impact her life span.

At the time, ICBC refused to provide any pain and suffering compensation. It took me personally suing ICBC as a self-represented advocate on my Mother’s behalf for the crown corporation to finally settle. The insurer was not able to be trusted as a fair and equitable arbiter without us having had access to the legal mechanisms of the law courts to obtain justice and fair compensation.

Under the “minor injury” cap and the proposed no-fault legislation, there is no consideration, or compensation, in place to address both the diminished quality of life through pain and suffering or the potential reduction in lifespan through other corresponding medical factors. There is no consideration of the fact that women are injured and impacted at a 73% higher rate than that of men. Inclusive of our current discriminatory wrongful death legislation, there is also no consideration that women are 17% more likely to be killed and taken from their surviving family members. Modernizing our wrongful death legislation and ensuring pain & suffering damages are available in motor vehicle accident claims, as well as access to justice for all, equalizes the playing field for all members of our community regardless of their gender and socioeconomic status.

In the attached ‘No-Fault Addendum’ document, we provide illustrative examples of how we can shore ICBC up financially while simultaneously focusing on the practical implementation and real-world-tested application of accident prevention. In times past, we have saved hundreds of millions of dollars and many lives by implementing measures that address the root cause and correlating factors of accidents. In the last few years, while BC ignored following through on implementing the UN Road Safety Strategy, the UK has reduced its rate of motor vehicle accidents to half of what BC presently has. I respectfully urge you to kindly review this document as well.

The BC Wrongful Death Law Reform Society wants equality for all under the law. In order to achieve this, we require legislative protections so that all citizens of BC have equal access to justice. We need to get back on track with policymaking that focuses on protecting the life, liberty, and property of the individual, no matter their gender or socioeconomic status. We feel the lack of action in the modernization of our present wrongful death laws and the legislative diminishment of victim rights on the motor vehicle side of things is moving the province in the wrong direction.

I implore you from someone who cares for the citizens of the province, vulnerable groups, and deeply for the women in my life, to please give us the ability to protect everyone equally. Please support wrongful death legislative modernization. Please support motor vehicle insurance legislation that focuses on root-cause prevention, instead of sacrificing the rights of victims.

Sincerely,

Michael-James Pennie

President, BC Wrongful Death Law Reform Society

Enclosures:

  1. Wrongful Death Accountability Act Briefing Note
  2. No-Fault Addendum
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