Justice for Jessica
Published on October 27, 2007
Jeannette Holman-Price has faced a lot of challenges since her daughter died under the wheels of a snow-removal truck in Montreal 22 months ago.
Her own anguish isn’t necessarily one of them.
“I don’t think I’ve started to grieve,” says the Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s resident.
Jessica Holman-Price died Dec. 19, 2005, as she and her 10-year-old brother Peter Luc stood on a Montreal crosswalk. The truck driver cut the corner too tight and the boy slid under the vehicle. Jessica, 21, pushed him to safety, but lost her footing and went under the truck’s wheels.
She died on the scene. Peter Luc sustained seven fractures, from his pelvis to his head.
Battle after battle
Their mother’s life has been one battle after another ever since.
The challenges have been daunting and intense, from dealing with the post-traumatic stress disorder that afflicts both her and Peter Luc, to preparing for tribunals in Quebec courts over expense claims and the definition of a victim. Still, the St. John’s native and her family have mustered up enough energy to try to use the accident to bring about positive change. They’re set on transforming Quebec and Canadian laws through The Jessica Campaign.
One of the main goals is abolishing the part of Quebec’s no-fault insurance system that prevents victims from seeking accountability. Another is to make under-guards mandatory for trucks across the country. The protective devices fit on a truck’s sides, between the front and back wheels, and are obligatory in Europe.
Seeking public’s help
Jessica’s family hopes to have 20,000 letters forwarded to the Canadian and Quebec governments through the website www.thejessicacampaign.com. More than 8,000 have been sent so far.
“I’d like 10 million (letters of support),” says Jeannette, who points out there are no financial objectives behind her cause or campaign.
Because of the no-fault insurance system and the fact Jessica’s death was ruled accidental, no one will be taken to task for the tragedy, she says.
Her family can’t sue for damages or inhumane treatment. (Jeannette notes it has been a battle to get a neuropsychological assessment for Peter Luc covered; Quebec has agreed to pay, but the results will be in French.)
No matter how unfair she thinks the system is, and regardless of how hard she tries to change it, altering Quebec’s insurance setup won’t be easy.
Audrey Chabut, a spokeswoman with the Society de l’assurance automobile du QuÉbec, is familiar with Jessica’s death.
She acknowledges Quebec’s scheme doesn’t please everyone, but says her government has no plans to alter it. “We don’t intend on changing the no-fault system,” she says.
Jeannette, who has even flown to Montreal and gone door-to-door trying to drum up support, acknowledges it is going to be a huge challenge to get Quebec to adjust a system that provides no incentive to drive safely. She is more optimistic about under-guards becoming law for trucks because it’s an issue that affects everyone in the country. If the devices had been compulsory, she thinks Jessica might have survived. Jeannette also feels under-guards might have prevented the recent death of six-year-old Zachary Strong in the Airport Heights area. “I think I’ll get support for (under-guards) from just common sense,” she says. Calls to two trucking organizations for comment on the possibility of installing under-guards were not returned.
Jeannette and her family moved back to Newfoundland from Montreal in March 2006.
Coming to grips with what happened is still quite difficult, she says, especially with the post-traumatic stress disorder. She can’t get past Dec. 19 and notes that when she pictures Jessica’s face, she can’t see the left side. “It doesn’t exist,” Jeannette says. The campaign and the other challenges are mixed blessings for her. “In many ways, this process helps me,” she says, “but at the same time, it’s exhausting.” Jessica, who was born in St. John’s and spent her formative years here, was posthumously awarded a Medal of Bravery by Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean in May.