News / Vancouver

Guest shot: A dad's fight for kids' right to ride the bus

Father of five Adrian Crook reflects on his struggle with the Ministry of Children and Family Development after an anonymous complaint barred his children riding the city bus to school.

Adrian Crook's children ride a bus in Vancouver in a handout photo.

Adrian Crook / The Canadian Press

Adrian Crook's children ride a bus in Vancouver in a handout photo.

I'm Adrian Crook, a single father of five in downtown Vancouver who recently had his family's freedom severely restricted by the Ministry of Children and Family Development.

Two years ago I began a long and careful process of riding with my four oldest kids (now ages 7, 8, 9, and 11), training them to take the city bus to their school. Teaching them transit is an effort to instill independence, model sustainability and increase safety, instead of taking a car.

It was a full year before I let the kids take any portion of the trip alone, and a year and half before they did the whole trip without me. During the entire two years, there wasn't a single safety incident. The kids were eager learners and no one shed a bus-related tear.

In April 2017 however, the Ministry stepped in based on an anonymous report. And after a two month investigation, the Ministry ruled that my children could no longer ride the bus without supervision. Specifically, they ordered that, "until the children are ten years old, they cannot be unsupervised in the community, at home, or on transit."

In other words, now my kids can't go outside alone until they're 10.

Beyond how crushing this decision was, it is also profoundly flawed. Why? Well for starters, when the Ministry met with me at the end of their investigation, they began by complimenting my parenting, saying there'd been no negligence and that I "went above and beyond" what they expected any parent to do when training kids to take transit.

Vancouver blogger Adrian Crook is fighting a Ministry of Children and Family Development order that bars his children from riding the public bus to school until they are 10 years old.

Adrian Crook/Submitted

Vancouver blogger Adrian Crook is fighting a Ministry of Children and Family Development order that bars his children from riding the public bus to school until they are 10 years old.

In a rational world, that should be the end of the Ministry's involvement: no negligence, textbook parenting. So why then did the Ministry rule against letting a situation continue that had resulted in no negative incident in two years?

Because the Ministry's investigation focused on anecdote instead of evidence. They prioritized their fears above the relevant facts. And they set out to avoid liability, rather than support responsible parenting.

The Ministry didn't talk to our bus drivers to see what they thought of the kids' behaviour (one of our drivers has since contacted me, offering his support).

They didn't shadow my kids on their bus ride to see if they were taking risks, even though I offered the Ministry the opportunity to do so, right away.

They didn't look up the statistics on bus safety (it's 24x safer than any other transportation mode, including cars).

They didn't know that we live in a safest era in modern Canadian times, according to crime statistics, safer than when most of us grew up. I'm guessing they also don't know that the #1 killer of kids ages 5-14 is being a passenger in a car crash. And it seems they didn't know how phenomenally rare kidnapping is - about 1:14,000,000 - so rare, you'd have a better chance of winning the 6/49.

Since last week, we've raised over $33,000 for a legal challenge to this case and hopefully to the scores of similar cases parents have shared with me. If you can't donate, consider writing a letter to your MLA, or to Hon. Katrine Conroy, Minister of Children and Family Development, at katrine.conroy.MLA@leg.bc.ca.

Tell your government that you expect our parenting policy to made by embracing facts, not running away in fear.

Parenting to lowest common denominator - as the Ministry mandates - ensures our children will lose, if we don't lose our children first.

ancouver parent Adrian Crook says his children are capable of riding the public bus to school by themselves but that a B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development caseworker ruled otherwise.

Adrian Crook/Submitted

ancouver parent Adrian Crook says his children are capable of riding the public bus to school by themselves but that a B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development caseworker ruled otherwise.

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