Responsibility for trail safety near Sheridan unclear

In the wake of the Feb. 4 sexual assault behind Sheridan College, it isn’t clear who is responsible for the safety of the forested pathway area.

Sheridan President Jeff Zabudsky has confirmed that the college owns the wooded area, but that the city is responsible for the maintenance of the pathways running through the area.

But Mayor Rob Burton said the college owns the land and is free to make changes that would improve safety and security for the people who use the pathways.

“All we do is, we operate or maintain a little piece of one of the trails for the … productivity of our bigger trail system,” Burton said.

Petition drew 500 signatures

The question arose after a Sheridan College student launched an online petition demanding that the city relinquish ownership of the wooded pathway area to the college, so that the college could implement more stringent security measures.

Hamza Jami, the first-year Computer Systems Technology student who created the petition said the college has promised to improve safety by springtime.

Mary Preece, vice president academic at Sheridan College promised Jami in a meeting Feb. 6 that the college would widen the pathways, clear excess foliage and install more lighting in the area.

Nearly 500 people signed the petition before Jami gave in to pressure from both the town of Oakville and Sheridan College, and agreed to remove it.

JNM Journal reporter Matheson Murray filed this report from an interview with Jami on Feb. 6.

Jeff Knoll, Oakville’s councillor for Ward 5, was shocked to hear about about the petition. Knoll said that he did not understand Jami’s demands, but confirmed that he and his staff have been in contact with Sheridan’s administration over concerns that both parties were not doing enough to mitigate the danger for students.

“[The] town has always cooperated with the college to the nth degree on every front, including security… Every time we’re asked to do something – from what I understand – we do it. I don’t think there’s anything that we would say ‘no’ to.”

More policing necessary

Knoll said that the city had recently passed a bylaw that permits college to patrol the pathways with its security carts.

“If the safety of the students is somehow being compromised because the town is not providing some sort of security measure [or] is not cooperating, I need to know about it. As far as I’m concerned, that’s just not the case,” Knoll said.

Mayor Burton, who is also chair of the police board, said that the more important thing to tell Sheridan students is that “we take [security] very seriously, we’re working very hard on it, and it’s policing work that’s going to solve this, not ownership.”

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