Tobogganing: A Fun Right of Passage that Can Sometimes Be A Dangerous Liability?
It’s a sport that has long been part of our Canadian heritage. For centuries, tobogganing has been a winter highlight for kids all across the country. It’s a simple and inexpensive activity, and one that helps us make the most of our long and cold winters. But if you have been watching the news over the last few weeks, several cities across the province have been imposing tobogganing bans on public property.
Imposing the ban is being handled a little different in each city. Ottawa, for example, has 56 approved sledding hills. These slopes are closely monitored by city workers and are closed down if they are deemed unsafe because of ice or bare patches. The City of Hamilton has taken a far more aggressive approach by imposing a full city wide ban of tobogganing on all public property. Failing to comply with the bylaw could result in a hefty fine of $2000 – $5000.
So why the dramatic response from the cities? The City of Hamilton was on the receiving end of a law suit in 2013 when a lawyer sustained a spinal injury at a popular tobogganing reservoir. The allegation by the Plaintiff was that there was a snow-covered ditch part way down the slope. The Plaintiff allegedly hit the edge of the ditch on his way down and was thrown from the toboggan, resulting in a crushed vertebrae, psychological problems, chronic pain, and post-traumatic stress. A city has an obligation of warn visitors to the premises of the inherent danger. Cities will often argue that a Plaintiff knowingly assumes the risk when they participate in a potentially dangerous sport.
A brief look at the online forums following the recent news stories paints a fairly clear picture of the public opinion on tobogganing bans. The older generation in particular has fond memories of the wintertime and wishes to see the activity continue.
It does not appear as though kids in the Ajax, Oshawa and Whitby areas will be affected this year by municipal tobogganing bans. There are several public parks, including Greenwood Conservation Area, Otter Creek Park, and Glen Hill Park, where sledders are welcome so long as the weather permits.
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