EDITORIAL: City dodges human rights bullet

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There’s no question about it, living in Yelowknife is expensive. There are arguably few who know this reality better than parents raising their children here.

One such parent is Aya Burshan, who gave birth to her third child in August and is currently on parental leave. Burshan was looking to get outside the house this winter, to socialize and be fit. With three young children in tow, including an infant, whatever activity she chose to do required that they join her.

So, she ponied up and bought a monthly membership to the Fieldhouse for $59, which would allow her to exercise daily, meet other new parents and allow her to be with her children.

But as she discovered, that choice came with a surcharge, one that Burshan felt was not only ridiculous, but discriminatory toward parents of young children. The city doesn’t allow people to bring strollers from outside to use on the walking track. She would have to use one supplied by the city at a cost of $1 per use.

A dollar doesn’t seem like a lot but, as Burshan points out, if she wanted to use the track five times a week as she intended to, that $59 monthly membership suddenly becomes a $79 membership.

An extra $20 a month can have a big impact on a family’s budget. And for parents of young children, 30 minutes outside of the house interacting with other adults can make a huge difference for a parent’s mental health. Being a parent of young children is hard enough and some of the challenges, such as post-partum depression and isolation, can quickly overwhelm them.

The Canadian Mental Health Association states, “Taking care of your well-being is especially important, but this can be difficult for any new parent. Regular exercise can boost your mood and help you manage stress … It’s always important to spend time on activities you enjoy, find relaxation strategies that work for you, and spend time with people who make you feel good.”

To its credit, the city realized the folly of this fee, and quickly rescinded it. Good thing too because the ice the city was skating on was thinner than the surface of Shorty Brown rink. City hall officials ought to know better by now, having forked out more than $8,500 in taxpayers’ money after losing a human rights case in 2017 for charging accessible transit users a higher fee than what people pay for regular city buses.

The Fieldhouse fiasco surely would have been a compelling human rights case and the city would have surely lost – again.

Kudos must go to Burshan for pushing back against a social agenda that appeared to penalize parents and discourage mothers and fathers from getting out of the house and being active with their children.

It’s important the city recognize areas that are lacking and accommodate as required to ensure all people living in the city are getting the best from the services available. The speedy way in which the city dealt with this issue shows a lot of positive, forward growth on its part.

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