Helmet crusader to speak at Dialogue Café 

Municipalities backing helmet laws, helmet standards

Who: Richard Kinar

What: Dialogue Café: Helmets – Compulsory for skiing, boarding and skateboarding?

Where: Scotia Creek Lounge, Millennium Place

When: Tuesday, Oct. 7, 7:30 p.m.

Richard Kinar’s crusade to create a national standard for helmets sold for use in skiing, snowboarding, skateboarding, inline skating and scooters, is gathering momentum with municipal governments supporting a pair of initiatives at last week’s Union of B.C. Municipalities annual general meeting.

Richard Kinar, the helmet advocate from North Vancouver who is behind the initiatives, will be in Whistler on Tuesday, Oct. 7, to participate in a Dialogue Café.

Resolution A13 would require skateboarders, inline skaters and scooter users to wear helmets on municipal roads, according to Kinar.

Resolution C10 is to petition the federal government to come up with the same helmet laws for other sports that are already in place for cycling and hockey.

"Tactically, we’re trying to have helmets considered as a hazardous product, like hockey helmets, which would require us to have at least a minimum standard in place for all helmets sold in Canada," said Kinar.

Because hockey and cycling helmets are mandated by law, and because poorly manufactured helmets can be dangerous to the wearer, they are treated as hazardous products. As a result they are scrutinized carefully before they can be sold in stores, says Kinar

Kinar’s says the public already believes that all helmets sold on the Canadian market have met some kind of safety standard, which is not the case. Some helmets currently on the market in Canada would fail testing in other countries that do have national standards, while others would come with more information for the user.

In addition, Kinar notes that helmets are made differently – some for a single impact and others for multiple impacts – and buyers are not always aware of what they are getting. In addition, single impact helmets are not appropriate for some activities where you fall a lot, like snowboarding and skateboarding, Kinar says.

While any kind of helmet is generally better than nothing, enforcing a single minimum standard in Canada, set by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), would ensure that all helmets on the market will do the job.

Kinar says that the issue actually runs deeper than helmets, and questions consumer laws in Canada that put the onus on government to prove they are dangerous, rather than on the manufacturer to prove that their safe.

"There is a larger discussion coming up, and that is the fact that the consumer laws in Canada don’t do a good job of protecting the public. Compare that to Europe, where a product has to be proven to be safe before it reaches the market," said Kinar.

To make the UBCM resolutions more effective, Kinar is hoping to join A13 and D10 into a single resolution, combining helmet laws and helmet standards into one initiative. In his view, you can’t have one without the other – if you’re going to make helmets mandatory for different activities, you have to ensure that the helmets used in those activities are effective.

Kinar says his initiative has been successful, noting that he has recently been interviewed for television and in the Vancouver Sun.

At the same time he is pulling back from an earlier request to reopen a coroner’s report for a Whistler local who died of a head injury last winter when he discovered that the helmet the man was wearing had been damaged prior to the incident. Although he would still like to have an expert examine the helmet, he says he will respect the wishes of the man’s friends in Whistler.

Kinar will be the special guest at the Tuesday, Oct. 7 Dialogue Café in the Scotia Creek Lounge at Millennium Place. The discussion gets underway at 7:30 p.m.

The Dialogue Café series is hosted by the Whistler Forum with support from the Simon Fraser University Dialogue Institute and Institute for the Humanities, and the Philosopher’s Café. Admission is by donation, with a suggested minimum of $5.

Other Dialogue Cafes on the agenda in the coming months include:

• Marriage – Legal for Gays and Lesbians? on Oct. 16 with marriage commissioner Luise Zinsli;

• Can the Human Right To Peace Be Enforced? on Nov. 1 with Senator Doug Roche, a former Canada Ambassador for Disarmament, and;

• Writing in Dangerous Times and Places on Nov. 16 with Eleanor Wachtel, host of Writers and Company on CBC.

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