Audit aims to create discussion about safety in Nanaimo’s south end

NANAIMO – Canada World Youth volunteers audit safety issues for women in south Nanaimo.

Canada World Youth volunteers hope to give Nanaimo something to talk about with a new audit on women’s safety.

An audit on women’s sense of safety in south Nanaimo was presented at the Harbourfront Library Friday as a starting point for discussion and a more in-depth study on safety.

The audit, done by Jillian Der, 18, and Siti Habibah Rhadiabullah, 19, as part of a three-month Canada World Youth program, looked at the area around Haliburton, Irwin and Victoria streets and the top issues affecting safety, from overgrown bushes to poor lighting and a lack of signs pointing people toward emergency resources.

The intersection of Irwin and Sabiston streets was so dark, the study noted that it was hard to find the sidewalks and there were inadequately marked and lit bus stops. In a preliminary survey at the Nanaimo Women’s Centre, participants also noted that the Needham and Haliburton Street bus stop in particular felt ‘exceptionally unsafe’ and refused to use it.

Der, who walked south Nanaimo with a group of women during the audit, said she was surprised at how dark and isolated it was. Her host house is in the same area.

“I’ve walked along there at night by myself and I try not to think about that because then you get into a frame of mind that’s fearful,” she said. “But when you take it all in and you look at how dark it is and how easy it would be for someone to sneak up on you or turn a corner and all of a sudden there’s someone there and there’s no lights on in the houses and you don’t know where to go for help … it’s unnerving.”

Der said the audit is surface level but hopes it leads to conversations about women’s safety needs and how they have to be addressed. Recommendations include better lighting on streets like Irwin, better identified bus stops and signs directing people to emergency resource areas.

Lesley Clarke, executive director with the Nanaimo Women’s Centre believes their work advances dialogue, especially about people coming to Nanaimo and how safe they feel.

“I really applaud these youth women for taking this on,” she said. “It was really interesting to have their perspective and I think that would be useful information to add to a larger safety audit.”