a slippery slope

3 days ago CBC News ran this piece about the high risk activity known as tobogganing:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/tobogganing-a-hisk-risk-activity-doctor-says-1.2896701

Dr. Charles Tator, an expert in spinal cord injuries at the University of Toronto is quoted in the article as ranking tobogganing fourth among sports and recreational activities just behind “diving into shallow water, parachuting and snowmobiling.”

The risks and dangers have generally been accepted and often ignored by children and their parents until someone gets hurt, and sues.

This recent article in NorthernLife.ca outlines how local governments and municipalities are finding themselves at higher risks of liability claims year after year: http://www.northernlife.ca/news/localNews/2015/01/08-tobogganning-ban-sudbury.aspx and how Sudbury has implemented measures after a tobogganing accident left one man with a spinal injury at Queen’s Athletic, and left the city with a lawsuit.

Hamilton taxpayers are legally on the hook for more than $900,000 following a 2012 court decision after a toboggan rider busted his spine on city property back in 2004: http://www.thespec.com/opinion-story/4146991-dreschel-taxpayers-in-for-900k-toboggan-ride/

A more recent article on The Hamilton Spectator revisits the issue as well as Hamilton’s controversial decision to ban tobogganing outright back in 2001: http://www.thespec.com/news-story/5245304-hamilton-s-tobogganing-reputation-sliding/

Ottawa has implemented bylaws that outline approved sledding hills across the city.

In Toronto a city bylaw forbids tobogganing in any area “where it is posted to prohibit it.”

Returning to the original CBC News piece Dr. Charles Tator doesn’t believe an all-out ban is warranted, and I agree.

That being said there is an undeniable impact on insuring the activity to best manage risk exposure as explored in this InsuranceBusiness.ca piece here: http://www.insurancebusiness.ca/news/cities-banning-tobogganing-over-liability-concerns-186867.aspx

With all of that established I was astonished to see The Aurora Hysterical Society inviting people to toboggan on the grounds of Hillary House at the upcoming Family Day holiday next month:

If the exposure and cost of a tobogganing accident for a municipality can be staggering and it is well known that the AHS’s business model is to hemorrhage tens of thousands of dollars a year and have no means by which to absorb the cost of a lawsuit one hopes the organization has adjusted their insurance policy to provide increased coverage.

After the tragic death of two children in 2007 the City of Vaughan reformed some of its popular sledding slopes, by removing obstacles like trees from hills. As we can be certain that is not the case at Hillarity House it would be reassuring to anyone stupid enough to take the AHS up on their invitation to know exactly what precautions and safety measures have been put in place.

The Occupiers Liability Act which requires property owners to take reasonable care to ensure people on their premises are safe was referenced in one article.

So exactly what are the property owners of Hillary House doing to ensure people on their premises are safe when encouraging such a high risk activity on their grounds?

Simply writing “Parental supervision required” doesn’t cut it when it comes to an activity that results in 500 or so sledding-related head injuries — mostly to kids — in Ontario each year like this one:

I’m now wondering if the entire idea of using grounds of a historic site recognized as being a place of medical practice as Aurora’s version of Georgina’s The ROC was borne out of someone’s head injury.

There’s no denying that things at Hillary House have been going downhill at breakneck speed thanks to a complete absence of leadership, but literally?

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