Skating rules in some Canadian cities criticized
The quintessential winter skating action is taking over slopes across the country. But as Canadians slide through the winter months in the local hills, the age-old question of safe skiing returns to communities and even boardrooms.
In Oshawa, Ont., a city just east of Toronto, councilors spent hours this week debating a proposal to ban skating in all but two city parks.
During the debate, Coun. John Neal ended a comment by saying “parents are not happy.” The city has received a number of written objections to this proposal.
“Children don’t know what to do, they don’t know about amendments, regulations and numbers. All they knew was if I could go skating and we wanted to say yes,” said Gail Syme, who attended the meeting in person.
Mother and grandmother frequented the local hills with the family. “It’s great for your mental health and not just for kids and physical activity, but also for adults. They laugh again, they happily think about their childhood.”
The proposal stems from a consideration of the coverage of city-owned hills, where skating is a popular activity. The review found problems that needed to be resolved.
Neal, a councilor of more than 20 years, thinks this is a topic not discussed by the council.
“I’ve been saying this since the committee meeting, don’t go down this route because if you do then prepare yourself because there’s a lot of things that can be sanctioned at the park.” Neal suggests treating the hills like other parts of the city have their own risks. “Register ‘use at your own risk’ like we do with our beaches in Lake Ontario.”
According to the Canadian Institutes of Health Information, between 2020 and 2021, there have been 170 skating-related hospitalizations recorded in Canada. By comparison, there were 522 hospitalizations for ice skating-related injuries and 6,590 for falls on ice. That year, there were 1,446 hospital admissions for playground injuries.
After hours of debate, the Oshawa councilors decided it was a hill they didn’t want to go down and the entry was shelved.
“Unfortunately we even have to have arguments – common sense tells us we shouldn’t have these debates in the future, you can’t absolve yourself 100% of the blame, ‘ said Con. Tito-Dante Marimpietri, added that councilors will hand it over to city staff to put up signs if necessary.
TOBOGGANING ALSO DISCUSSED IN OTHER CITY
Oshawa isn’t the only city in debate; Cities around the country have weighed in on ski safety over the years.
Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Hamilton and Ottawa are among those with designated skating hills maintained and monitored by the city. Many cities have websites that list designated hills along with safety recommendations.
Skiing in an unspecified location can cost you. In Calgary, for example, there are fines starting at $50 for skating in areas where the activity is not approved.
Toronto has 27 designated skating hills. In unlicensed hills, no-skating signs are drawing a lot of criticism in at least one ward.
Jon Burnside, councilor for the area, said: “I don’t think I’ve received so many angry phone calls about the no skating sign in Broadlands Park. He is working to change the wording as a warning.
“The last thing we want is for Toronto to be a city without fun and when you have a sign that says everything including skating, that seems like the direction we’re going,” Burnside said.
“It’s not about enforcing the skating ban, to my knowledge it’s about protecting yourself from litigation. So why not tell people what the danger is and let them make their own choices?”
In a statement, the City of Toronto said “signposts were installed to notify residents and direct them to toronto.ca/toboggan for locations where toboggan hills are regularly checked for detect hazards.”
Burnside is optimistic that Toronto Parks staff will be able to change the signs into something of a warning that encourages people to make safe choices.