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Madeline’s Story

Madeline's Story

Told by her mother, Tara Stroup

On Friday, July 26th, 2019, our lives were completely shattered. I received a phone call at our cabin, just north of Princeton, from my daughter-in-law Sarah that would change our family’s life forever. Our 23-year-old daughter Madeline, her boyfriend Hayden Turcotte, and a third friend, Tyrell Gait, had been on their way to pick up a fourth friend, and they had all been heading up to meet us at the Stroup family cabin in Missezula Lake for the weekend.

To our utter horror, Madeline and her friends had been involved in a serious daytime car crash on Sumas Prairie in Abbotsford, BC, between the pickup in which she was the front-seat passenger, and an SUV driven by an elderly man in his 70s. The other driver had been speeding and had run a stop sign, so he was clearly at fault. The first person on the scene was an off-duty paramedic. After the ambulance arrived and assessed the situation, Maddy was airlifted to Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, BC.

My husband Dean and I rushed to the hospital where our family and friends were waiting (this was five months before COVID started), only to learn that Hayden, Madeline’s boyfriend, had not made it. Disbelief, sorrow, anger and shock followed. Such a young life – taken so soon.

Madeline, however, was rushed into surgery immediately, as her condition was critical. She was in a coma. A neurosurgeon performed an operation to relieve the swelling in her brain, which had suffered the brunt of the impact. Later, in the Intensive Care Unit, we were told to stay quiet and not to touch her or disturb her, as they were keeping her as cool as possible to relieve the swelling in her brain.

The next four days were torture, as we prayed that her life be spared, all the while not being able to hold her or touch her in any way. There were highs and lows throughout this time, but ultimately there was a meeting with the doctor, who told us that she would not make it. In that moment of utter grief and despair, we decided, as a family, to donate her organs so that others could live. We felt strongly that she would want this, being the generous and loving young woman that she was. The next day we were surprised to learn that our beautiful girl had decided, at the age of 21, to become a donor and had already completed the registration process a couple of years prior. This moment brought us some relief and confirmed our feeling that we had done the right thing.

Madeline was kept alive for two more days, in an induced coma, to ensure that her organs would still be acceptable for donation. My husband stayed with her throughout her last two days, finally leaving her as they took her away for surgery to harvest the organs. Because of Maddy’s generosity, five people were given a new lease on life. The organs that were harvested were her heart, liver, kidneys (which helped two people), and islet cells, which were transplanted into someone who had Pancreatic Insufficiency.

Our family has always been exceptionally close, sharing our lives with one another and taking great joy in all that life offers. The death of our youngest child impacted so many people in so many ways, some of which we will never know. Her three older siblings, parents, grandmother, cousins, friends, co-workers, and family friends will never forget the compassionate, thoughtful, and vibrant young lady who is no more.

It was within a week of Madeline’s passing that a representative from ICBC paid us a visit. Since we had never been through anything like this before, we had no idea of the reason for his visit. After I had offered him a beverage, he sat down across from us at our kitchen table. We were worn out from crying, going through Madeline’s personal items, and organizing a funeral when he matter-of-factly informed us of the Family Compensation Act and how it impacts the way that ICBC conducts its business.

Although Madeline had had employment income from her job as a mental-health care aide, because she had no dependent children of her own, we were not entitled to compensation of any kind, even though she had had car insurance. This meant that we would not be entitled to anything, except a small amount of money for funeral and burial costs.

My mind was foggy with grief, and I did not understand what he was saying, but my husband did and asked him to leave immediately. I remember the ICBC representative leaving, and also my husband being upset. It was not enough that our daughter was now gone. We had just found out that even though the driver had been speeding and had run the stop sign, ICBC had a loophole in the law (dating back to 1846) that prevented us from holding the driver accountable for Madeline’s death. Not only that, there would not be any compensation available for the unsurmountable loss of her love, care, guidance, affection, companionship that we would have otherwise shared for the rest of our lives. I was dumbfounded and felt the injustice of it all rise up in me.

We cannot ever get our daughter back. It is unbearable to try to come to terms with that. However, the slap in the face from our own vehicle insurance company has left me feeling like Madeline’s life had meant nothing. Someone who was negligent and reckless with his vehicle killed two young people and seriously injured a third person. He was given only a small fine for running a stop sign and cited for a traffic violation. Where is the justice in this? What kind of message does this send to our citizens? I find it offensive and incomprehensible that human life is worthless in our province and that this can happen in today’s society.

We want our voices to be heard and would appreciate any support in this matter. The campaign of reaching out to the MLAs seems like the best way to stop this from happening again and ensure that others with similar circumstances do not go through this senseless process.

 

Media Coverage

Global News: Daughter of Burnaby firefighter becomes second victim of fatal Abbotsford crash

The Chilliwack Progress: Daughter of Lower Mainland fire captain taken off life support

CBC News: Death toll from Abbotsford crash rises to 2 as victim taken off life support

Vancouver Sun: Young woman with an ‘old soul’ gave life to five after fatal crash

Global News: Victim in Abbotsford crash helps save 5 lives through organ donation

Vancouver Sun: B.C. parents seek the right to sue for wrongful death of children

The Province: B.C. parents seek the right to sue for wrongful death of children

Times Colonist: B.C. parents seek the right to sue for wrongful death of children


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About the BC Wrongful Death Law Reform Society

‘In Their Name’ is the campaign of ‘The BC Wrongful Death Law Reform Society’ – a BC registered non-profit organization comprised of volunteer families who have lost a loved one to wrongful death in BC and were denied access to justice. In response to the biggest human rights issue facing the province today, our goal is to modernize British Columbia’s antiquated wrongful death legislation, which predates confederation (1846). Under current legislation, the value of a human life is measured only by the deceased’s future lost income, so long as they had dependents.

As a result of the province’s antiquated law, access to justice has been denied to the families of the wrongfully killed who do not meet this discriminatory criteria. This has affected especially vulnerable groups, namely children, seniors, the disabled, and anyone without dependents when they are killed by the negligent or intentional acts of another.

BC is presently the last of all the provinces, yet to have undertaken this critical legislative modernization to allow for dignity, value, and protections for all its citizens under the law.

When it’s ‘free’ to kill in BC, wrongdoers are not held accountable. This lack of general deterrence holds the province back in terms of incentivizing innovation of safety measures and protocols to prevent wrongful deaths in the first place.


Here’s How You Can Get Involved…

The Premier of British Columbia, David Eby, is responsible for the modernization of BC’s wrongful death laws. Our Society provided David Eby with the drafted ‘Wrongful Death Accountability Act’ when he was acting as the Attorney General for British Columbia for 6 years between 2017-2022. The new Attorney General, Niki Sharma, also shares responsibility as she is the Minister responsible for the ‘Family Compensation Act’ – the current guiding piece of legislation that the civil courts must follow in cases of wrongful death. Minister Sharma receives feedback from the regional ‘Members of the Legislative Assembly’ (MLAs) and follows orders from the Premier, David Eby, who is ultimately responsible for modernization.

Reform is presently at a standstill, as the BC NDP government does not presently view access to justice for the surviving family members of the wrongfully killed as a priority in this province. This is despite the fact that the families behind our Society have been fighting for modernization for over two decades. And despite the fact that all other provinces, including the Yukon, have already modernized in most cases long ago.

The only way to move this forward is by creating massive public awareness and outcry for legislative modernization. Only under the scrutiny of the public and the media will our politicians be forced to take this necessary, and long overdue action.

How many more people will need to die from the same preventable wrongful actions before our politicians will do their job?

#1 Kindly consider supporting the public awareness advertising efforts of our volunteer led Society by Donating Now »

#2 In less than 30 seconds, with our automated tool you can Petition Your Local MLA »

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We appreciate your support at this critical time!

Petition Your MLA Now

Unlike other Canadian provinces, BC has not made any significant amendments to its wrongful death legislation—ever. The current BC Family Compensation Act only values the lives of income-earners. This neglect must stop. Petitioning your local MLA, the Attorney General, and Premier with our automated tool can make a lasting difference to the lives of British Columbians for generations to come.

Dear Local MLA, Attorney General Niki Sharma, Premier David Eby, Minister of Health Adrian Dix, Minister of Public Safety & Solicitor General Mike Farnworth,

I am writing to you about the wrongful death of 23-year-old Madeline Stroup and British Columbia’s woefully outdated wrongful death laws, which are still based on colonial-era legislation from 1846.

BC’s current Family Compensation Act only takes into account the direct financial losses resulting from the wrongful death of a loved one. As a result, only the families of deceased breadwinners see the inside of a courtroom in cases of wrongful death.

Children, seniors, people with disabilities, or anyone who does not meet the discriminatory criteria of having both an income and dependents are classes of people whose lives are not valued or respected when they are killed in BC.

This is a human rights issue.

Investigations into the wrongful death of these classes of citizens most often do not occur because there is no ‘loss of earnings’ to cover civil trial costs.

Accordingly, families have been denied the ability to right the wrong and ensure that the same preventable actions which resulted in the wrongful death would not happen to another.

Unlike other provinces in Canada, which in most cases have modernized long ago, many of your constituents are considered “worthless” under the discriminatory law in British Columbia.

Madeline Stroup, sadly, is one of these cases where there isn’t any accountability, or compensation to her family for the loss of love, guidance, care, affection, and companionship after she was killed by a negligent driver. Her story can be read here – https://intheirname.ca/our-stories/madeline/

The BC Wrongful Death Law Reform Society is comprised of families who have been fighting for over two decades to see our laws modernized. They have drafted legislation that can solve this problem now.

These families, based on each individual personal experience of loss, have demanded that the legislation include the following tenets:

#1 The value of human life must not be based merely on whether the wrongfully killed was a breadwinner with dependants. There must be a legal recognition for the value of each life and the loss of love, guidance, care, companionship, and affection wrongfully taken from surviving family members.

#2 The value of human life must not be arbitrarily capped by legislation. Damages for the loss of life must be assessed individually by constitutionally independent superior courts, in recognition of the distinct relationship that existed between each of the surviving family members and the wrongfully killed loved one.

#3 All forms of non-pecuniary damages, including aggravated and punitive damages must be available under the legislation to be awarded in appropriate cases. Financial penalty assessed by a civil court when a wrongdoer maliciously, or recklessly kills another person is essential when criminal prosecution is not pursued or fails. General deterrence of future wrongdoing is an important objective.

#4 If an individual is not initially killed by a wrongful act, but later dies before the conclusion of litigation, this should not be a windfall for the wrongdoer. There should not be a perverse incentive for the wrongdoer to delay, or prolong litigation. Damages relating to conscious pain, suffering, and disability during the period between the wrong and the decedent’s death, including damages for loss of expectation of life, pain and suffering, physical disfigurement, or loss of amenities must remain available under the legislation.

#5 Families deserve the right to have their day in court with the ability to obtain professional legal representation on a contingency basis. No other piece of legislation in the province should bar the pursuit of an at-fault wrongful death claim against a negligent party. The contingency fee system does not discriminate socioeconomically, and it ensures the family can obtain the best representation necessary to obtain truth, justice, and accountability against a wrongdoer, no matter how big and powerful that wrongdoer might be. Families also deserve the right to have the case decided by a jury of their peers. This fundamental aspect of our democracy must be preserved.

What will you do to create a fair and adequate wrongful death law in BC?

Yours Truly,

Your Full Name
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cc: BC United Leader Kevin Falcon, BC United Critic for Attorney General Mike de Jong, BC United Critic for Public Safety & Solicitor General Mike Morris, BC Greens Leader Sonia Furstenau

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