I attended the town meeting last night and listened to the many arguments presented by concerned citizens about the locking of the municipal beach. I have also read the legal opinion you posted last week.
What was clear to me last night was that there are many issues at stake beyond the liability of the town and its councillors. So many people were articulate on multiple subjects. The town was asking the Town Council to see beyond a preoccupation with the single factor of liability. As you consider your decision about the future of the municipal beach, I would ask that you think through the following points that were made:
- The necessity of reviewing the relevant laws and opinions, particularly the 2016 opinion that cited jurisprudence and was conducted by an expert in the field.
- There is no such thing as zero risk. The town is liable for all its sites, many of which are more dangerous for swimming than the municipal beach.
- Other municipalities in the region, such as Magog, have found solutions to providing a safe space for swimming.
4. Keeping the beach closed deprives the public of an equitable access to the lake. We are limiting access to those who already own lake-front property. In a sense, we are privatizing the lake. The social (and ethical) repercussions of this action are serious and concern the health of the community.
5. There are financial repercussions as well, as people stop coming to North Hatley for recreational purposes or decide not to move here.
6. What has been perhaps the greatest damage is the destruction of the community structure of the NHRS – a vital organization of community engagement and development. Here is where people have felt they belonged and were part of a greater whole, where they felt they could contribute and receive assistance.
I trust that, as councillors, you will be attending to the greater good of the town and take into consideration all of the above. Zero risk would be not to allow anyone to enter the lake. And locking the gate at the municipal beach, entails, as one councilor suggested last night, an ultimate practice of calling in the Sûreté du Québec to police infractions.
The single preoccupation with liability has turned a vibrant community into abstract efficiencies. People have become statistics. The determinants of health include not just the prevention of danger but the promotion of an equitable and thriving community with a sense of belonging.
I would hope that the councillors will take the lead and insist on the greater good of the town.
July 10, 2018.
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