children at skate parkThe First Nations Children’s Safety Project distributes child booster seats and helmets for bicycling and skateboarding to Indigenous children and families.

Awareness, information and support are the goals of First Nations Children’s Safety Project

The vehicular injury rate for Indigenous people is estimated to be twice that of the general population—a level social work professor Brent Angell is working to reduce, one community at a time.

Since 2012, Dr. Angell has been collaborating with First Nation, Métis, and Inuit people and organizations serving their communities to reduce injury risks and to ensure that Indigenous children and families are provided with state-of-the-art child booster seats, and helmets for bicycling and skateboarding.

Through the UWindsor-based First Nations Children’s Safety Project Trust Fund, established by Angell, hundreds of child booster seats have been distributed to kids in more than 30 reserve communities across Canada. Now he is turning his research and intervention attention towards meeting the needs of Indigenous children and families living off-reserve. Recent child booster seat distribution events have taken place in partnership with the Victoria Native Friendship Centre, the Midland Native Women's Association, the Orillia Native Women's Group, and locally last week as part of the Can-Am Indian Friendship Centre’s Community Picnic held in Optimist Memorial Park.

“The determination of Indigenous community members to make a difference and assume a leading role in reducing injuries and fatalities has been impressive,” Angell says. “Awareness of the importance of safe driving fundamentals such as wearing seatbelts, focusing on the road and not on cellphones or texting, avoiding driving while impaired, and making sure that youngsters are seated in properly fitting and installed car seats has increased.”

The project emerged from a Government of Canada AUTO21-funded multi-year research and intervention project which partnered Angell with First Nation, Métis, and Inuit community leaders in identifying vehicular injury issues of importance and finding innovative solutions to address them.

Through the trust, the initiative has broadened to include additional aspects of injury prevention, including a recent donation of 30 helmets for Walpole Island First Nation’s annual Skatejam which took place earlier this past weekend.

In addition to funding from the trust, the project has received significant local financial support from the United Way of Windsor-Essex County, and Kyle and Kara Koostra, with two additional events promoting booster seat information and distribution in Windsor scheduled for September.

“Ensuring that child booster seats are available to youngsters has been important not only in reducing vehicle-related road injuries, but in kindling conversation on the community benefits that come about from safe driving,” Angell says. “The approach is collaborative, ongoing, and community-focused.”