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City to consider sidewalk snow removal

Lauren McKeon
Northern News Services
Published Friday, January 09, 2009

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - On October 22, 2008, Yellowknifer Eve Petersen, 55, slipped on a sheet of ice concealed by sugary snow on Borden Drive and landed hard on her left elbow, breaking it.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Eve Petersen slipped and fell on hidden ice in October and broke her elbow. Without full use of her left arm, she prefers to use a hiking stick to help her balance. She came to Monday's committee meeting to share her story and ask the city to implement mandatory sidewalk snow removal. - Lauren McKeon/NNSL photo

She has not been to work in over two months ... may never recover 100 per cent mobility or strength in her left arm and is in pain despite medication, she said.

All this, said Petersen, just because the city does not require residents outside the downtown core to shovel their sidewalks.

The outcome, said Petersen, "is people like me become permanently damaged."

She complained to the city first after her fall, and only then because a nurse at the hospital casually told her she wasn't the first to fall at the spot on Borden.

While Petersen said she is happy the city cleared the ice away shortly after she reported it, she feels the system is ineffective.

After all, she said, there are a lot of potential danger spots in the uncleared suburbs. Petersen told her story to city council members, and answered questions in turn during a recent committee meeting.

While council was set to discuss amending the applicable bylaw to extend sidewalk snow clearing citywide, the talk was deferred to Jan. 12 because of an overly-crowded schedule.

Petersen said she just wants to see Yellowknife adopt the same policy as other capital cities she's lived in.

In both Toronto, where Petersen lived for 20 years, and Vancouver, residents are required, by law, to clear their sidewalks.

"All capital cities (have these) types of set-ups," said Petersen. "And I consider Yellowknife a capital city."

City council and administration have been looking at the possibility of instituting citywide snow removal, starting with a review last February and a follow-up in September, but have yet to reach any decision.

One concern is bylaw enforcement, the other, according to city councillor Kevin Kennedy, is whether it's fair to ask those who may not be able to easily shovel their sidewalks ... like senior citizens and those with disabilities ... to do it or be fined.

"One response we've heard quite often from people is it's not fair to expect people to shovel their sidewalks," said Kennedy.

Petersen said the problem can be easily fixed with a campaign similar to the one the city of Toronto ran when it first implemented mandatory sidewalk snow removal: "Be nice, clear your ice."

"When there is a community spirit ... people do go out and help each other," said Petersen, adding "the city needs to provide that leadership."