Why Canada is not as safe for kids as you might think it is, and what a community near Ottawa is doing about it

December 14, 2018

Elizabeth Payne: Ottawa Citizen

The red street sign reads Testa’n: Stop, in Mohawk. The Grade 6 students gather around and take pictures of the sign and the steady traffic passing by.

“What do you see here?” asks Rose-Alma McDonald, an Akwesasne-based project leader on a community tour with the students.

“Cars,” “a road,” “the school,” they chime in.

“What would make it safer?” they are asked.

A crosswalk, one girl says, looking down at the dark, wet pavement. A “slow-down-for-students” sign, another says. A streetlight, says a third.

These 11-year-olds, tromping through the snow near their Akwesasne school with new iPads in hand, are part of a research project aimed at changing the safety landscape for local children and challenging the status quo.

During a community walk, the students photograph safety risks, from abandoned buildings and roaming dogs, to dangers around the St. Lawrence River that slices through the reserve.

During their tour, they stop at the edge of the roiling river, which will soon freeze and become a makeshift ice bridge. We lose people here every year, says one of the leaders watching the children take pictures of the inky water.

The students, from Kana:takon School in St. Regis, have named their club the Danger Dodgers. They meet weekly to learn about safety, about their community and about storytelling. The pictures and videos they take will form part of a presentation to Mohawk council. They will ask council to help them make their community safer.

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