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Campaign to slow down traffic near WSANEC school picks up momentum

Traffic speeding past LAU,WELNEW Tribal School on West Saanich Road
Const. Dan Steffes and Const. Ravi Gunasinghe of Sidney/North Saanich RCMP joined students from LAU,WELNEW Tribal School on June 7 to raise awareness about traffic safety along West Saanich Road as part of an ICBC campaign that sees children draw pictures. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Slow down.

That is the message a group of children attending LAU,WELNEW Tribal School on West Saanich and their educators delivered as part of a campaign against speeding on the busy road.

The campaign saw students draw pictures that imagine what happens in front of their school in terms of traffic that featured safety tips on the flip side. Const. Dan Steffes and Const. Ravi Gunasinghe of Sidney/North Saanich RCMP also addressed the students, along with other members of the detachment including Staff Sgt. Wayne Conley.

“I live on this road and people just zoom along here,” said Robin Cooper, home school coordinator. More of the students are also walking, added Rita Morris, who teaches language immersion. “We have people with special needs coming along here and the traffic has to acknowledge that. They are not even acknowledging that it is a school zone. Slowing down is just so vital.”

Tsartlip Elder Simon Smith said he hopes the campaign leads to improvements for the sake of the children.

“What I’m worried about is that (if) one of our children decides to run out there … they don’t have a chance.”

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Sgt. Colin Cook said West Saanich Road is one of the major arteries on the Saanich Peninsula, drawing local and regional traffic, be it commercial or non-commercial. More traffic, in other words, leads to more speeding. Stretches along the school are also very straight, he added.

“So we always had an issue and concerns with speed,” he said. “In our area, it is one of the worst, because it is a main artery. The volume of traffic is second-to-none other than the highway itself.”

He said many drivers are not aware that LAU,WELNEW Tribal School lies along West Saanich Road.

While the WSANEC School Board and the local community have taken many measures to inform drivers about the schools, some drivers became complacent because the school was shut down during parts of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Cook.

Accordingly, police have stepped up enforcement in an effort to help essentially re-train drivers. “Our Indigenous Police Service members are up here on a daily basis doing speed calming as well as enforcement,” said Cook. The school also lies near a residential area and West Saanich Road sees heavy pedestrian traffic, he said, adding that the need for road safety does not end with the coming end of the school year

The campaign earlier this month can also be seen as a broader effort to improve relations between police and First Nations.

“A big part of what we do is relationship-building with the community, and the leadership,” said Cook.

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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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