COMOX VALLEY, B.C. – School District 71 board chair Janice Caton said the district is taking a wait-and-see approach when it comes to retrofitting local school buses with seat belts.

The concept of seat belts on school buses has been a hot-button issue after CBC’s The Fifth Estate reported that a Transport Canada report in 2010 showed that school buses without seat belts had failed safety tests.

On Jan. 21, Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced the creation of a task force on the issue.

Garneau said the task force – made up of provinces, territories, and school bus manufacturers – will explore the possibility of putting seat belts in existing buses.

The minister added that while the federal government has the jurisdiction of mandating seat belts in school buses, it will be up to each province to retrofit them.

Caton said the board is monitoring the situation, noting that district complies with all Transport Canada regulations in transporting students.

She added that the district is required to follow transportation law on how it transports its students.

“We have very, very safe buses,” she said.

Caton reiterated that the district will wait for the task force’s recommendations and then “see what the province does.”

“There’s nothing we can do on our own,” Caton said. “Safety is foremost for all our students, and we will take action accordingly once decisions are made at that federal level.”

The conversation of belts on buses will come to the board when it is appropriate to do so, Caton said.

“There are a lot of pros and cons with seat belts on buses,” she added. “We talk about safety of students; our buses meet all the safety requirements. If you put seat belts (in buses) then you are looking at different options. Who monitors putting seat belts on students? Who will walk through the bus to make sure that they’ve all got their belts on? What happens when they take them off?

The district will “wait and see” and then take actions accordingly when those decisions are made at a higher level, according to Caton.

On a personal note, Caton said her children rode district buses for 20 years and she found them to be safe.

“The only issue that I have with buses, is those people who cannot just stop, when the buses are stopped and those little red (flashers) come out saying stop; that would be my issue, not the seat belts,” she shared.