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Helmet issues far from resolved

Advocate frustrated with speed of process, but encouraged by progress

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By Andrew Mitchell

It’s been almost five years since North Vancouver’s Richard Kinar, a former freestyle skier, began a crusade to establish national standards for helmet design and use in skiing, snowboarding and small wheel sports like skateboarding and inline skating.

In that time he has had his victories — the endorsement of the Canadian Federation of Municipalities and politicians at every level of government, and support from the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), Insurance Bureau of Canada, and various sports and medical organizations.

On Monday, Feb. 12, Kinar’s helmet campaign was the subject of a CBC Radio report. A feature news segment on the issue is also planned. Next week he will be making a presentation at the Pacific Coast Brain Injury Conference in Vancouver, where helmet standards and use will be a focal issue of discussions.

Still, Kinar is frustrated by the lack of attention to the issue at the federal level.

Kinar sees helmet standards as a “no-brainer”, no pun intended, just as when the Canadian government took the lead on establishing standards for hockey helmets and bike helmets.

“The way I see it the federal government is putting youth and everyone at risk by not addressing the issue the proper way, which is through hazardous product legislation,” he said. “This is at a time when we’re encouraging people to be active, encouraging kids to be active for their health, and using the 2010 Olympics to get people into sports like skiing and snowboarding.”

Kinar’s helmet campaign, called the Kinar Project, was prompted by his discovery that there are no standards for skiing and snowboarding helmets made or sold in Canada.

He was working as a speed controller at a Lower Mainland mountain when he saw two children collide. Although both were wearing helmets and moving relatively slowly, one of the children was knocked unconscious.

After seeing how a helmet probably saved his son’s life after being struck by a car while riding his bicycle, Kinar decided to do some investigation. He was shocked to discover that there are no standards for ski and snowboard helmets sold in Canada, and that some helmets on the market offer little protection against head injury — potentially making injuries worse.

After more investigation, Kinar has also discovered that there are no standards for helmets used in skateboarding, in-line skating and other small wheel sports.

Kinar has since lobbied government to create a set of national standards and then impose the Hazardous Product Act to ensure that all helmets sold in Canada meet those standards. Currently hockey and bike helmets have hazardous product status, making it all but impossible to purchase gear that doesn’t meet CSA standards or possibly foreign standards recognized by the CSA.

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