A concerned group of community members is working to make the village of Ohsweken safer, after reports of speeding around school zones and an estimated 15 child abduction attempts reported in the past five years.
Sonny Maracle, one of the founders of the Six Nations Caretakers, told Six Nations Elected Council last week that something must be done about speeding and child safety in the village as the population around the area increases.
Maracle said he started the organization in response to an attempted kidnapping at J.C. Hill middle school.
He started doing a safety watch around the school, which also includes Jamieson Elementary School right next door, in the past year and noticed a large amount of speeding vehicles in the area.
“Our kids are almost getting hit,” he said, adding that he was almost hit himself in that area last week.
“I would like to see band council putting crosswalks up so people can see there is actually a school there. How can you not know that a school’s there? Why should you drive that fast?
What I’ve been seeing is very, very frightening. We have cars going 60 to 80 km/hr. They were passing each other in front of the school. We have to slow these cars down. Somebody is going to get hit. They don’t pay attention. They’re on their phones.”
Maracle suggested adding speed bumps in front of the school as a start.
“They’ll realize there’s a school here. No one seems to care.”
During one of his patrols, he saw a Pepsi truck speed through the school zone and he stopped the driver.
Next time, he told the company, he’ll take the truck.
Maracle has also suggested hiring crossing guards and playground monitors at lunch and recess.
Chief Mark Hill said funding for such extra measures is an issue but “we’re doing a lot of advocacy. We do have solutions to this. Safety is of utmost importance.”
The chief said he expects to know by this week if the funding will come through for extra safety and security measures around schools, including cameras.
Chief Hill said they also hope to have cameras installed in the downtown village core, after a pedestrian was killed by a motorist near the main intersection a few years ago.
He said council is looking to establish a community safety fund to support the Six Nations Police and make the Ohsweken village core safer.
“It will help with our police in follow up to certain situations that occur. We’re trying to be proactive,” he said.
They’re also working to establish an anti-bullying task force and are asking for more community participation in the new initiative.
Maracle also said sidewalks are needed on both sides of Fourth Line Road for kids walking home from local schools.
Mark said council will need long-term funding for these safety initiatives.
Coun. Greg Frazer said speeding is an issue in other school zones around the reserve and suggested putting up signs and digital speed monitors.
Maracle started an identifying initiative using a penguin logo that represents the Six Nations Caretakers and he hopes to get the word out to students and youth that if they see that penguin sticker or logo at a local store, it’s a safe place they can go to for help.
“They might not know how to read, but they’ll know the penguin,” said Maracle. “We live in a cruel world now and it’s time we start protecting our people.”
Chief Hill agreed.
“The downtown core is more developed than it was 10 years ago.”