This is my Carillon column this week.
Who is to blame? Last week the headlines of provincial news media featured a story about a car accident that occurred during a funeral procession. Thomas Novak a pastoral worker for the Catholic Church was in a procession to a cemetery, when his car was hit on the passenger side at a busy Winnipeg intersection. Novak was shaken up but not injured.
However as a result of the accident he is calling for an end to funeral processions. He thinks they are just too dangerous. Funeral processions are a tradition still practiced in some rural Manitoba areas, but infrequently in Winnipeg, and consequently many drivers simply don’t know the protocol surrounding them. That invites accidents. I tend to agree with Novak. If funeral processions are a hazard why have them, particularly at high traffic times of the day? Most families now lay their loved ones to rest in private services before or after the actual funeral. Often cremation has taken place and ashes will be scattered later so no trip to the cemetery is required.
One argument made for continuing funeral processions is that people might have a hard time finding their way to cemeteries without them. GPS technology and Google Maps make that argument a moot one.
This plaque near the Provencher Bridge in Winnipeg pays tribute to Lyle Thomas a worker who died while it was being built.
Another reason given for funeral processions is that they are a way to show respect for the person who has died. But there are many other opportunities for doing that, including publishing obituaries, making a charitable donation in the person’s name, planting a tree in their memory, erecting a plaque or carrying on traditions they started.
What really surprised me about this news story was how it became such a big issue and how commenters on media sites immediately looked for someone to blame after reading articles about the issue.
The first targeted group was young people, who according to many commenters don’t have proper respect for traditions like funeral processions. Young people cause accidents because they are so busy texting they don’t pay attention. Parents were also targeted for failing to teach their children proper respect for the law and for letting their kids spend too much time on their devices, so they become socially isolated and don’t understand social norms.
Another targeted group was elderly people who according to some commenters don’t quit driving when their health no longer allows them to drive safely, and are generally a hazard. Manitoba Public Insurance was also targeted for not having stringent enough protocols for awarding licences and not making people retake their driving tests more frequently. The RCMP was blamed for not enforcing laws more strictly to get bad drivers off the road and for not providing police escorts for funeral processions.
Another targeted group was newcomers to Canada who according to some commenters don’t know the traditions and cultural habits of their adopted country and haven’t become accustomed enough to driving here. The federal government was also targeted for letting too many immigrants into Canada.
Organized religion was also a target of blame. Some commenters said without the religious traditions and trappings surrounding funerals these accidents wouldn’t happen.
I was struck by the fact that finding someone to blame was uppermost in many people’s minds. Why do we do that? The funeral procession issue is just one of a myriad we could use as an example of how finding someone to blame and ranting about them seems to be the first response. Why instead of laying blame can’t we have meaningful conversations, look at data, weigh possible options, propose alternatives, and find solutions? Why do we always look first for someone to blame?
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