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Vancouver MP tables helmet legislation

Private member’s bill would set helmet standards for snow sports

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By Andrew Mitchell

After more than five years of lobbying, a campaign to create national standards for helmets used in snow sports is one vote in the House of Commons away from becoming a reality.

This week Vancouver Centre MP Hedy Fry, the opposition critic for sport and the Vancouver Olympics, submitted a private member’s bill in the House of Commons. If adopted, the bill would classify the helmets as a hazardous product, which means the sale and manufacture of helmets would have to legally conform to national standards. The bill also includes a provision for bike helmets, which would make it illegal to sell helmets that are not certified by the Canadian Standards Association.

According to Fry, work on the bill has been in progress for over a year, and she was in the process of tabling a bill before Parliament was cut short by the last federal election. As a doctor, she is particularly interested in seeing this bill pass.

“My familiarity with the issue is as a physician, and one who knows that a head injury of any kind, and especially with recreational sports, is purely preventable… with the right kind of good head protection,” she said, adding that she was part of the campaign to make bike helmets mandatory for children in 1982.

“There are so many reasons why it is important. There’s the human tragedy side, the loss of potential, the loss of quality of life. There’s also the cost to the system — we know that recreational head injuries cost us about $100 million a year to treat. We know that someone in acute care with head injuries costs $3,800 a day.

“There’s the loss of productivity, as people with brain injuries may not be able to work in the job they would ordinarily be working.

“There are all kinds of reasons to protect the head, and from my view the whole concept of good health care is to prevent what is preventable.”

The Canadian Standards Association is currently working on developing a set of national standards for helmets used in snow sports, with funding from the B.C. government. Those standards should be finalized by the end of the year.

However, Fry says that is just the beginning.

“Once the standards are set they are useless — there are bike standards for example, but retailers can still do what they want,” she said. “The first thing to do after we get a standard established is to put the helmets into the Hazardous Products Act… along with hockey helmets and helmets for lacrosse.”

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