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Thursday, September 12, 2019

Tensions Escalate Between Walkerton District Students, Nearby Residents

Walkerton | by Robyn Garvey  

Brockton calls on province, health unit to help solve problem updated Smoke Free Ontario Act created.

Escalating tension between some Walkerton District Community School student smokers and residents along Fischer Dairy Road in Walkerton.

The problem stems from new legislation that prohibits smoking within 20 meters of school property.

The Province has created this problem and now Brockton wants the Ministry to help solve it.

Council has passed a motion urging the Province as well as the Public Health Unit to assist in finding a solution to the problems the updated Smoke Free Ontario Act legislation is causing some residents.

Mayor Chris Peabody believes latitude is needed in the enforcement on the updated Smoke Free Ontario Act.

The Act which was updated following the legalization of cannabis now prohibits smoking within 20 meters of a school.

Because of the new rule, Walkerton District Community School students have been pushed from the sidewalk in front of the school to smoke all the way to Fischer Dairy Road, a residential subdivision not far from the school.

Residents along this subdivision have voiced frustration regarding litter, language and loitering of students in front of their homes who gather to smoke.

Principal Sarah Slater says her students are caught in the middle of a conflict that is not of their making.

She expresses student safety concern, saying there are some adults backing students into a corner, engaging the teens in negative behaviour.

Slater adds that one of her own staff members was nudged by a car the other day while standing with students.
Resident Wilf Wilhelm paints a much different picture.

He says a handful of the student smokers have been very aggressive towards residents, threatening them, swearing at them, throwing garbage on their property and even jumping out in front of their vehicles like it is a game. 

Wilhem adds that he recently had all four of his tires slashed and while he cannot prove it was a student, he claims the very next day one of the students came up to him and threatened to slash his tires again.

Councillor James Lang notes there are three sides to every story and sympathies with the frustration expressed both sides, however he too has witnessed students cursing and spitting at some residents.

Both Principal Slater and Mayor Peabody agree that the 20 meter provision in the Smoke Free Ontario Act (prohibit smoking within 20 meters of a school) is proving very challenging and a compromise of some sorts is needed.

Over the last week due to concerns for both students and residents there has been a heavy police presence along Fischer Dairy Road during the school lunch hour.
 

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