May 12, 2011 Kerala Taylor

Play Hater! Toronto city councilor opposes repealing street hockey ban

The only good thing about Play Haters is that they often give rise to Play Heroes. In this simultaneously uplifting and disheartening story, four teenagers took a stand against a decades-old law in Toronto, Canada that bans children from playing hockey on residential streets.

Andrew Polanyi, age 13, insisted, “Roads aren’t only for cars.” He said of street hockey: “It’s fun for us, and it keeps us active, not to always play video games.” Andrew and three friends brought a petition with more than 125 signatures to City Hall a few weeks ago to request that the ban be lifted.

The boys have found an ally in Councilor Josh Matlow, who plans to bring a motion to a city council meeting that allows kids to play hockey in the street as long as their parents agree to assume liability for the risks involved. Though the current ban is not often enforced, Matlow points out, “If one person calls and complains – not only can [the children] be booted off the street, but they can be ticketed for $55." In this lawsuit-happy day and age, Matlow’s proposed measure is probably the teens’ best bet.

However, Councilor Denzil Minnan-Wong supports keeping the ban in place, deferring to a report prepared by the transportation department that outlines the risks associating with repealing the ban. Minnan-Wong admits that 95 percent of children who play hockey in the street likely aren’t at risk, but he still insists that “there has to be some way in which the 5% of the ones [children] who... do create a hazard to both themselves and motorists... where police can come out and make sure safety is enforced.”

Like so many bans created to limit risk and ensure the safety of our children, the street hockey ban focuses not on the vast majority of children who would actually benefit from the activity, but rather on the tiny fraction who might get hurt. The result? We push our children indoors, sterilize their childhoods, and take away the challenges that help them grow and learn. In the end, we hurt all our children by living in fear of hurting a few.

Join our online petition to encourage Minnan-Wong to support Matlow’s motion, which is expected to be heard by the city council in mid-May. Let the parents decide whether or not their children can go out and play!

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