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Kayla and SilkaKayla Cadreau straps her three-year-old daughter Silka in to her brand new Clek booster seat.

Trust fund to boost children's safety in First Nations communities

Like the vast majority of parents, Kayla Cadreau – who is a member of the Walpole Island Bkejwanong First Nation – is always concerned about the safety of her child every time she puts her in a car.

Some of those concerns were eased, however, when she recently became the recipient of a brand new, state-of-the-art booster seat, courtesy of an innovative new collaborative research initiative between the University of Windsor and Walpole Island First Nation.

“I thought it was great,” Cadreau said after strapping her three-year-old daughter Silka into the Clek booster seat. “I don’t have a car of my own, but this is really easy to carry around, so it will be great to use when we ride with other people in their cars.”

Cadreau was the first of 20 people to receive what organizers hope will be many more booster seats through the First Nations Children’s Safety Project, which is aimed at reducing the risk of injury and death of Aboriginal children.

Social work professor Brent Angell, who along with colleagues from across Canada are involved in an AUTO21 funded multi-year research project looking at finding community generated ways to reduce the risk of personal injuries resulting from vehicle collisions, has established a new trust fund whose goal is to ensure that every child living on a reserve community in Canada is eventually provided with a child booster seat.

“I want you to feel like this is only the beginning,” Dr. Angell stated to the Walpole Island research partners at a recent meeting when the first shipment of child booster seats were delivered to the community for distribution. “I can’t make any promises, but I’m hopeful that the trust fund will grow to the point where everyone who needs one gets one.”

The child booster seats easily snap into place using the vehicle’s factory installed seatbelt-like latch connectors, which anchor them in a way that makes them part of the car’s infrastructure for improved safety. While they retail for about $70, Angell has an agreement with the manufacturer to provide them to First Nations Communities for half that price.

“When you think about it, $35 is a pretty small investment to make to protect a child,” he said.

Angell said vehicle injuries occur at a rate of between four and 10 times higher in First Nations communities than in the rest of the country, so dedicating resources to prevent injuries creates an excellent “social return on investment” considering the millions of dollars that go to treating and rehabilitating vehicle accident victims. This is especially true when considering the costs associated with caring for someone who has suffered a traumatic brain injury during a collision.

The emphasis of the research project – which includes partners from the University of Windsor, Western University, Ryerson University, the Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue (UQAT), and the University of Victoria – is to work with First Nation, Metis, and Inuit communities from across Canada in identifying vehicular injury issues of importance to them and support them in finding and implementing innovative solutions.

“Each community will come up with its own ideas of what’s important to them,” he said. “What’s important on Walpole Island might not be the same priority in another First Nation community”.

Anyone who wants to donate to the trust fund can contact Melissa East Aspila, major gift officer for the Faculty of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences at measpila@uwindsor.ca or at 519-253-3000 ext. 2093.

Watch a video about the project: