Canadians have begun sharing their collective grief over the tragic Humboldt Broncos bus crash in a very Canadian way: leaving their hockey sticks by the door in the glow of their porch lights.
Since Saturday night, hundreds have turned to Twitter and Instagram to post photos of their sticks on the porch using the hashtags #PutYourStickOut and #PutYourSticksOut in tribute to the Broncos, the Saskatchewan junior-hockey team whose bus collided with a semi-truck on Friday. The crash killed 15 players, staff and local-radio employees and injured 14.
TSN broadcaster and Humboldt native Brian Munz helped the hashtag start flying around the internet on Sunday night as he tweeted a photo of a friend’s hockey stick. “The biggest thing is to let those that were affected know that we’re all still thinking about them and they’re in our prayers,” he told The Globe and Mail.
The collective tribute was just one of the many ways Canadians have rallied around the Humboldt team online. But there were many more: A group of self-described Langley, B.C., “hockey moms” launched a social-media campaign calling on people to wear hockey jerseys this Thursday in a show of support for the team. “When the community and families are ready, they can have a look to see how many people were behind them,” said Jennifer Pinch, one of the hockey moms behind the movement.
More than 75,000 people showed support with their wallets. A GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign for the victims and their families surpassed $6-million in donations on Monday. It’s now the platform’s biggest-ever campaign in Canada and one of the top-five globally, with the highest donors including Canadian Tire Corp., pledging $50,000; the Pittsburgh Penguins, with $20,000; and the Ottawa Senators, with $15,000.
But now, a far-too-familiar process has begun behind the scenes: figuring out how to fairly distribute the rising donations among living victims and the beneficiaries of those killed.
The grim process has played out seemingly countless times, particularly in the United States, where public donations have flooded in after tragedies such as the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, the 2016 Pulse nightclub shootings in Orlando and last year’s shootings at the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas.
The job must be handled dispassionately, with neutrality and speed, said Kenneth Feinberg, who has overseen major U.S. victim funds for decades, including the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and funds for the Boston Marathon and Pulse-attack victims. The administration process for victim funds is like “rough justice,” he said in an interview. “It’s a very poor substitute for the loss of a loved one.”
Rob Solomon, GoFundMe’s chief executive officer, told The Globe that the crowd-funding platform has a “VIP team” that works with campaign organizers to guide them through the process. The Humboldt Broncos campaign organizer, Sylvie Kellington, did not respond to interview requests on Monday, but Mr. Solomon said GoFundMe has been working closely with her and the Broncos.
Working with large fundraising campaigns after tragedies, GoFundMe connects organizers and beneficiaries with victim-compensation experts, including the U.S. National Center for Victims of Crime, which has a rigorous process around vetting fundraisers and distributing funds, Mr. Solomon said.
A thorough plan for Humboldt is ”absolutely a work in progress,” Mr. Solomon said, with hopes that all parties will be in agreement within the next week or so.
First and foremost, Mr. Feinberg said, a fund administrator needs to be selected. “This is not rocket science, but it is emotional and it is very debilitating,” he said by phone. “Somebody has to be selected who’s willing to give pro-bono service to the community. Somebody ... who is so well-respected that the credibility of the program won’t be questioned.”
A protocol for how the funds will be distributed must then be drafted. Some protocols, such as the one drafted for the Las Vegas shooting, are publicly available online. The administrator should then host a series of town halls to get feedback from victims and community members, Mr. Feinberg said.
With roughly $6-million, he said, an administrator for the Humboldt fund could delegate three-quarters of the money pro-rata to the families of the deceased, with the remaining distributed to survivors based on the seriousness of their injury. Survivors with mental trauma but no physical injury may also be compensated.
Because of the speed required for the process - a fund should be open-and-shut in four or five months to get victims paid properly, Mr. Feinberg said - he warned that type of physical injury not be taken into account for survivors’ compensation. Instead, he said, length of time in hospital is a faster and fairer measure for compensation.
Mr. Solomon of GoFundMe said some funds may be released earlier on, to pay for funerals and accommodate families’ travel costs. The platform - which recently removed its 5-per-cent fee for personal campaigns in Canada - also donated $25,000 to the Broncos campaign.