Humboldt Broncos GoFundMe court hearing delayed

Humboldt Broncos families should get rest of $15M fund by Christmas

The families of the people killed and injured in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash will need to wait a little longer to find out how the money from a monumentally-successful GoFundMe campaign will be split between them.

A court hearing originally scheduled for Thursday is now tentatively set for Nov. 28, according to Jeffrey Lee, the lawyer representing the Humboldt Broncos Memorial Fund Inc.

The Broncos team bus collided with a transport truck on April 6. The crash left 16 dead and 13 injured.

People from more than 80 countries pledged a total $15 million on GoFundMe for the families after the crash.

A memorial fund corporation was created to help shepherd the money, with a five-person advisory board tapped to recommend how the money should be split between the 29 families.

A Saskatoon Court of Queen's Bench judge will make the final call following the hearing. 

Final recommendation is in

Darrin Duell, the corporation's president, said Thursday that the corporation has received the board's recommendation following interviews with the family members.

He said families' desires to directly address the committee, as opposed to the third-party information officers, delayed the process.

"I think it was quite an intense process for them to go through, interviewing all the families," said Duell.

"It certainly makes it less of an objective process in some respects," he added, "which I think we can all understand. It's difficult to be objective in these cases."

The five-person committee is made up of:

  • Dennis Ball, a retired Saskatchewan Court of Queen's Bench judge.
  • Mark Chipman, chairman of the company that owns the Winnipeg Jets hockey team.
  • Former Olympic hockey gold medalist Hayley Wickenheiser.
  • Dr. Peter Spafford of the University of Saskatchewan's College of Medicine.
  • Kevin Cameron, executive director of the Canadian Centre For Threat Assessment And Trauma Response.

Another setback

Court documents show the process had another setback in early September when the committee needed Justice Neil Gabrielson to weigh in on an important issue.

The committee wanted to know if payments from the fund should be limited to the specifically-stated intent of the GoFundMe, which was to help families with "any expenses incurred," or if the funds could also be more broadly distributed "by way of lump sum gifts."

"The information provided to the advisory committee to this point makes it apparent that the uninsured or unreimbursed expenses incurred by the families are, and will be, substantially less than the [available] funds," Ball wrote.

Gabrielson decided by mid-October that the payments could cover both "expenses incurred" and what he called "non-compensatory payments to beneficiaries."

Next steps

Some families or their legal representatives are expected to make statements to Gabrielson at the next court hearing, according to Duell.

The lawyers for the families of dead team members Tim Hodgson and Kevin Mellor have argued that the money should be split evenly. They said one person could hypothetically produce receipts for expenses incurred while another may not be able to do so.

Not all of the money raised through the GoFundMe will end up with the team members and families.

GoFundMe has already deducted $482,712 from the $15.1 million to help cover payment processing fees. The company also held back a smaller amount to pay back people whose contributions to the campaign are ultimately contested.

The remaining $14.6 million has been invested in trust by law firm MLT Aikins LLP in two savings accounts pending the final payout to survivors and families.

Back-to-back court dates

In July, semi driver Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, 29, of Calgary, was charged with 16 counts of dangerous driving causing death and 13 counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm.

He's due back in court on Nov. 27, a day before the GoFundMe hearing is now set to take place.