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Helmet standards, laws taking centre stage

No progress on standards funding even after five deaths in 10 days



The issue of ski and snowboard helmets – whether they should be mandatory and whether Canada needs a set of national helmet standards for manufacturers and consumers – has taken centre stage in recent weeks after a string of five deaths in Quebec and B.C.

On Friday, Feb. 18, an 18-year-old Vancouver skier died from head injuries after colliding with a tree at Apex Mountain Resort. He was taking part in the resort’s annual Iron Legs competition where participants ski or snowboard all 24 of the resort’s advanced black diamond and double black diamond runs.

Earlier this month a 47-year-old skier from Vancouver died of a head injury after he lost control and went into the trees.

In early February, two skiers in Quebec, aged 12 and 21, died of head injuries after colliding with trees. Another youth died tobogganing.

None of the victims were wearing helmets.

The deaths have prompted calls in Quebec and B.C. for ski and snowboard helmet laws similar to provincial legislation that applies to cyclists.

Richard Kinar, a North Shore resident and helmet advocate, says those deaths are yet another wake-up call for the industry and governments. Largely through his activism over the last three years, Kinar has brought the helmet issue to the forefront, securing support for helmet laws and standards from organizations like the Union of B.C. Municipalities, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, and the City of North Vancouver. He also has the backing of several MLAs and MPs, and prompted the Canadian Standards Association’s steering committee to recognize the need for helmet standards for snow sports.

All that’s missing at this stage is a small amount of funding and the political will to make those standards a reality.

"Everyone I’ve spoken to agrees that it’s not much money – about $200,000 to write the standards and $300,000 for an education program," said Kinar.

"Obviously we’re close to getting the money. It’s absolutely essential in light of five deaths in Canada in a 10-day period. People are talking about national helmet standards for skiing and snowboarding, and this is the time to do it."

According to John Walter, the senior director of standards development for the CSA, Kinar deserves a lot of the credit for advancing the argument for helmet regulations and standards in Canada, but there needs to be more support at the federal level.

"(Politicians) either aren’t aware of it or they won’t do it, which is why it takes something like the three deaths in Quebec to bring it to our attention," said Walter. "We’re certainly involved, and the challenge now is to find funding, and so far we’re not having much success."

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