Once upon a time, if we had a decision to make that might have some consequences, we would consult with trusted advisors. It might be your parents, a religious leader, law enforcement people, or a politician. (HA! That last one was a joke; we have never trusted politicians.)

Today, however, we have a new trusted advisor, one whose advice trumps everything else. Including common sense. That advisor is the insurance company.

The most recent example of how insurance companies have taken over decision making comes out of Lethbridge, a pleasant southern Alberta city.

First, some background.

As you no doubt have heard, a Somali-based terrorist group, al-Shabab (not to be confused with al Shamal, who are a Shriners group and unlikely to go on killing sprees), released a video encouraging its followers to attack shopping centres. On the list — West Edmonton Mall, still the largest in North America. (Yeah for us!)

This resulted in the usual flurry of panic amongst those who like to panic, and assurances from police that WEM is safe. Now, the odds of a terrorist attack are at WEM are pretty small; but today, who knows? It could happen. And I guarantee that Edmonton police, the RCMP, CSIS, and probably Homeland Security in the U.S. are knee deep in this file. Thanks to the warming from al-Shabab, WEM is probably safer than ever. Thanks for the heads up, al.

But WEM is not safe enough for the insurance company of Lethbridge School District No. 51.

This weekend, there’s a huge cheerleading championship at the mall that attracts teams from across Canada. In light of the “threat”, 25 teams have pulled out, including the G.S. Lakie Middle School team, which has a seven-year unbeaten streak at the event. The school board that made the decision (without consultation with the parents) said their insurance company thought “it was prudent” to skip the tournament. The team, of course, is heartbroken.

What kind of madness is this?

Let’s look at the odds of anything happening to the Lethbridge girls. The insurance company apparently put the odds at high enough that they should stay home. But ask yourself this: what’s more likely to happen, a terrorist attack that involves the Lethbridge cheerleaders happening at West Edmonton Mall, or a bus crash involving the Lethbridge girls on their way to the cheerleading event at West Edmonton Mall? Clearly, the odds of a bus crash are small, but exponentially higher than the odds of a terrorist attack. But the insurance company didn’t tell the team not to go because they could be involved in a bus crash (very little chance), but because of a potential terrorist attack (minuscule chance). Does this make any sense at all?

Insurance is a valuable tool, and it makes a lot of sense to insure yourself against the unforeseen. And I suppose if you’re an insurance company, and someone asks for an opinion, you will err on the side of caution, because that’s what you do. But when you’re taking life advice from a corporation, something is wrong.

What irks me more than the “prudent” insurance company opinion is that the school division accepted the advice. Seriously? What the hell is wrong with you people? This is a great message to send to the kids, isn’t it? Be afraid, be very afraid, of EVERYTHING! Live your life in fear! Listen to your insurance company!

And to the parents of the girls, a bit of advice, if I may: go to the event. Rent your own bus, change your team name to the No Fear Cheer Team, and go. Send a message to the spineless bureaucrats and panicky insurance companies that you are not going to live life in fear of the unknown, and the unlikely.

Go, team, go!


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