Safe Communities advocates take their message to area councils

OPP Staff Sergeant Jack Hunjan is bringing the message of Safe Communities to local municipalities.

In recent weeks, Hunjan made similar presentations to Erin and Puslinch councils.

Hunjan said work is being done to get a Safe Communities designation for Wellington County – a process which began in 2012.

He said it has been a long journey and organizers are now hoping the designation will be in place by June.

Hunjan also noted emergency management coordinator Linda Dickson, along with others, are involved in the project.

“We started out with Safe Communities Canada.”

From there, the group went to the Parachute Program which is an amalgamation of Canada’s four leading injury prevention organizations. Its motto is, “A safe life is a basic human right.”

The other Hunjan said is that “safety is the responsibility of everyone.”

He explained that Safe Communities Canada is a national charitable organization with the goal to assist communities mobilize citizens and organizations to address and reduce injury rates – whenever and however they occur.

He said the group’s vision is “to make Canada the safest community in the world to live, learn, work and play.”

Hunjan then added that 22 per cent of the Canadian population lives in a designated safe community.

“There are a few (designated) safe communities across Canada.”

Hunjan said safe communities are places which put people and processes in place to address the pain and costs of injuries wherever and however they occur.

To accomplish that, numerous people and groups have been brought together.

Locally in Puslinch, some of the groups and organizations include Nestle Waters Canada, McDonalds and other non-government programs/agencies.

The assumption is simple “injuries are predictable” and that is where this committee comes into play – to take stock of what programs exist now and what needs to be done to make an impact, he said.

“There is no magic wand for change,” he stressed.

He said this is only the beginning of the process to make change happen.

He said injuries cost the economy $14 billion a year.

Hanjun added that on average three Canadians are killed in the workplace every day.

“If we can do something to prevent that, it will go a long way.”

He added, that if injuries are reduced, wait times at the hospitals will also go down.

Hanjun said spinoffs to being designated as a safe community can include tourism, economic development, social development and possibly attracting new residents to the community.

“There is quite a pride when a place is designated as a safe community.”

Hanjun said, “every dollar invested in being a safe community will return $40 in savings.”

But mostly, he said, investing in safety makes economic sense.

Another aspect of the safe communities approach is that it allows collaboration between various community agencies and organizations.

He said there is a 10-step process to become a designated safe community.

The group has moved through that process from developing its terms of reference to a final submission to Parachute Canada in early March.

“The only constant is change and progressive change in partnership with the community is the way of the future.”

He also clarified that the safe communities committee is separate from the COP committee, though the two groups work together.

Councillor Susan Fielding noted she had attended some of the safe communities meetings and events.

Fielding is also a member of the Puslinch COP committee.

Hanjun said he is appreciative of the local COP committees.

Mayor Dennis Lever said it was a real eye opener to discover how high up the issue of self harm was. It ranked third.

Hanjun said that one of the things he noticed in coming from Caledon is there are  more self-harm injuries in Wellington.