Opinion — I’m Pissed Off About the High Level Bridge’s Suicide Prevention Fence

I decided to take a look at the High Level Bridge’s new suicide prevention system. What I found does not impress me at all.

First and foremost, this is what the new suicide prevention fencing on the more-than-a-century-old High Level Bridge in Edmonton, Alberta looks like: 

20160714_211802

Alright, sure. It may not look the best, and it certainly has destroyed the beautiful views from the city’s highest and oldest bridge, but let’s be honest here. That is not an issue to bring up on a case that relates solely on being one of the most used places to commit suicide in our city. This article is not about how shitty the fence made the bridge look. No, I am not that shallow. It’s about so much more than that.

I saw a post on Twitter the other day that really got me curious. The tweet was a photo of Chris Hubick behind the brand new High Level Bridge barriers. I mean the dangerous side of the $3 million fence that was just installed to prevent suicide attempts. He got there with the utmost of ease. By simply bending down and going behind it.

Without further ado, here’s the tweeted photo in question:
Chris Hubick on the dangerous side of the High Level Bridge's new suicide prevention fence.
Chris Hubick on the ‘dangerous side’ of the High Level Bridge’s new suicide prevention fence. // @hubick

This really pissed me off, and for more than one reason. A lot was going through my mind when I first laid eyes on this photo.

That was three days ago.

Since then, I’ve taken some time to take a closer look at the High Level Bridge and its new $3 million suicide prevention system, or “high tension fence.” I spent 5 minutes at the bridge, and my conclusion came quickly.

The City of Edmonton has really let us down on this project.

I get that it’s great that they quickly came to a conclusion when they noticed that suicide off of our High Level Bridge was turning into a serious concern, and quickly. It’s great.

What’s not so great however, is that they rushed to getting the project started, and then rushed again to get it completed.

What’s wrong with the new fencing system? Well for starters, there’s these:

Calculations were off.
The design is flawed.
Cyclists are pissed.

But that’s not even the worst of it. What really grinds my gears about this new “suicide prevention system” is the fact that…

Suicide is still very, very much possible.

How is it you can spend over $3 million of hard working tax payers’ money, and yet fail so miserably at a project that really, truly means a lot to such a high number of Edmontonians?

If the City of Edmonton wants to fix these problems, they’re going to have to do what?.. Yep, you guessed it: Use even more of our hard earned tax dollars. Wonderful. Just absolutely wonderful.

I will not tell you my personal views on our current city council team, but I will say this. I am not against how our mayor and councilors are running things in general. But this… This is very much not okay.

On Thursday, July 14th, I decided to take a closer look at the High Level Bridge for myself.

While I was there, I was lucky enough to experience a half-smile for a moment as I looked beyond the bridge and noticed this beautiful view.

Notice all of the people just relaxing and enjoying the view, or climbing the wooden stairs. Edmonton is beautiful.

Alright, back to the reality of this city’s failure of a suicide prevention system though.

Here’s what I saw when I first came up to the High Level Bridge from the north side, walking on the west sidewalk:

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Straight away, I notice a very concerning problem. Why is it that the so-called ‘high tension wiring’ only starts shortly after before the final height of the main fencing? I put ‘high tension wiring’ in quotations because, I don’t know why, but the wiring is not nearly as tense as it should be.

I walk a bit closer to the corner pillar ahead:

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Well, well, well. What do we have here?

It’s a massive damn gap between the tension wires and the original fencing.

Why? Why is this even a thing. Why is there a massive gap between the old fencing and the new fencing, and then loose tension wiring aside from that?

Also, did you know that the pillars themselves are nearly twice as thick as they were originally planned to be? This has caused havoc for Edmonton’s cycling community, especially considering the High Level Bridge is actually one of the most heavily used cyclist traffic lanes within the entire city of Edmonton. Just take a look at the [#YEGbike hashtag on Twitter], and you’ll see what I mean. [See further below for more information on the suicide prevention system causing more issues for cyclists.]

A shot from within the old fencing and the new tension fencing:

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Can you see just how wide the gap is? This is the work of incredibly poor planning.

I would say that I am completely speechless, but this opinion piece clearly states differently.

While writing this article, I took one final look at the [#HighLevelBridge hashtag] on Twitter. I just came by this tweet. I did not notice these markings when I stopped by the High Level Bridge on July 14th. (I was either on the wrong side of the bridge, or I didn’t walk far enough ahead.)

 

 

So this is how #yegcc has decided to address the narrowness of #highlevelbridge. Grand. #yegbikepic.twitter.com/zsEUUIMUoX

— Micah (@caveatstercorum) July 10, 2016

 

 

I mean, are you kidding me right now? City council, you have got to be kidding me right now. This is just silly. This is just absolute embarrassment.

Numerous cyclists have already complained to city council about their bike handle bars getting caught on this new tension fence, causing them to fall off their bike and sustain injury.

Oh, and here’s something else to watch out for. Now, although this is completely illegal, it still happens, and far too easily, at that.

On top of the High Level Bridge where the streetcar goes // Conner Felix on Facebook
On top of the High Level Bridge where the streetcar goes // Conner Felix on Facebook

We need to make it much more difficult to be able to climb on top of the High Level Bridge, an area that is used solely for Edmonton’s streetcar – that of which is the highest in the world, according to [Mr. Iveson in a recent article published on his personal blog].

What’s stopping someone experiencing suicidal thoughts from climbing up to this level?

With all of that said, I will say this however. I am very pleased with council’s motion to add these help line phones to both ends of the bridge. These are just wonderful. I have zero complaints about these, so kudos to you all.

20160714_211937

Also, the fact that these were allowed to be engraved into the sidewalk, is also a beautiful thing. Thank you for that as well, city council.

So to the students of Braemar school, thank you for the lovely inspirational quotes.

While writing this article, I stumbled upon a [brand new article] [less than two hours old as of this writing] by none other than our very own Don Iveson [Mayor of Edmonton].

In the article, Mr. Iveson writes:

On reflection, this is an example of what can go wrong when the City is in a hurry, which is something for us to continue to watch for.Don Iveson, Mayor of Edmonton

At the very least, he’s acknowledging his and the rest of council’s mistakes. Good on you, Mr. Iveson.

IN CONCLUSION — Now again, don’t get me wrong. I truly appreciate this city’s council taking this bridge’s suicide issue seriously, and with no hesitation, actually doing something about it. That’s great in and of itself. But the way that the whole project was conducted, from beginning to end? That… That is a definite problem, and I honestly hope that this city’s council starts to take Edmonton’s tax money more seriously in the future.

Don’t even get me started on the way that this city’s council has destroyed the LRT [light rail train] system for Edmontonians [Why can’t we have a Skytrain like Vancouver?], or how about that $24 million River Valley funicular system [basically a massive outdoor elevator]. I mean, come on. Let’s take things a little more seriously here please, shall we?

As you can see photographed above, this extremely old bridge is beautiful. Let’s please try to keep it that way.

STORY CONTINUES BELOW
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Now, I’m not the only one pissed off about this whole ordeal aside from the cyclist community. In fact, you may even want to check out this [editor’s piece written up on Edmonton Sun] as well. A lot of good points made there, some of which are the same points made here.

If you or someone you know suffers from deep depression, please call the Mental Health Hotline of Alberta at 1-877-303-2642.

NOTICE — The expressed thoughts written in this article are the personal opinion of Edmontonian [Jody Mitoma] and do not reflect the views or opinions of anyone other than his own.

High Level Bridge taken from way up high // Yannick Sauer Films
High Level Bridge taken from way up high // Yannick Sauer Films
SHOULD WE WRITE MORE STORIES LIKE THIS?

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45 COMMENTS



Jody Mitoma

Founder of Edmonton Talks News.

45 COMMENTS

  • Ashley Cragg
    July 16, 2016 at 12:06 PM
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    Well actually most people who attempt suicide and fail say they are glad they failed. If given just a few moments to think and reconsider and collect their thoughts it can save a life. While I agree it may be poorly constructed the idea behind it was well intended. To say ‘they will just find another way’ is ridiculous.

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    • ETN - Edmonton Talks News
      July 16, 2016 at 12:09 PM
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      Poor constructed is an understatement. It takes 0.5 seconds to realize you can climb under and still jump. I’m blown away by how shoddy this was planned out. It blows my mind that this passed.

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    • Ashley Cragg
      July 16, 2016 at 12:15 PM
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      That’s the city of Edmonton for ya. Maybe we could prop that new 7 million dollar art piece they just had done between the wires to block it off.

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    • Tyler M Vause
      July 16, 2016 at 5:36 PM
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      It is a “they will just find another way” moment, because no fence will stop someone. They could just walk up besidethe bridge and jump down to river valley road. The fence wont do shit. The city doesnt care if people kill themselves. They just care that people are using the high level bridge to do it.

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    • Craig Smailliw
      July 24, 2016 at 4:55 PM
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      Edmonton Talks News not to mention that it would hinder the efforts of anyone passing by who might attempt to grab and pull down a potential jumper. now instead of pulling them onto solid ground they will have have a net to hold them and keep them over the edge.

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  • Kylie Bergen
    July 16, 2016 at 12:11 PM
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    Think about what a difference it could have made if that 3 million was invested in mental health care and outreach programs. While I appreciate the thought behind it, more attention needs to be payed to the root of the problem before it gets to this extent 🙁

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    • Casi Hofstede
      July 16, 2016 at 12:24 PM
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      Completely agree. If people want to kill themselves they will find a way. We should be addressing the issue as to why so many people want to die. Fix our mental health system.

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  • Norma Butz
    July 16, 2016 at 11:58 AM
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    $3 million is an incredible amount to begin with, never mind shoddy workmanship and missing the mark on making it ultimately for what it was intended.

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    • ETN - Edmonton Talks News
      July 16, 2016 at 12:02 PM
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      Heck, there was a $7 million option that I would have been happier with. This fence is an absolute embarrassment and waste of our money. 🙁

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  • Shauna Chambers
    July 16, 2016 at 12:01 PM
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    Yeah… If I wanted to kill myself, I’d find a way. Sharp object? Poison? Prescription drugs? Hanging?
    What a waste of 3 million to begin with.
    It’s not as if that was the only method available and now all of edmonton is safe.

    Poorly thought out, poorly executed.
    Sounds like Edmonton to me

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    • Ken Bitz
      July 16, 2016 at 12:48 PM
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      When Britain converted from coal ovens to natural gas the suicide rate dropped 30% because people didn’t have as easy access to the means to kill themselves

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    • Shauna Chambers
      July 16, 2016 at 12:56 PM
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      Im sitting in my living room right now.

      I can see:
      Nail clippers with sharp attachment, could slit my wrists
      Several bottles of pills, advil, prescriptions
      Pocket knife, fork, keys, all used to cut wrists
      Light sockets, electrocution
      Cleaning products (poison)
      And a belt, which I could hang myself with

      Don’t even need to move more than five feet from my couch.

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    • Ken Bitz
      July 16, 2016 at 1:30 PM
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      Yes, you definitely have several options where your friends or family might have to deal with your body. They also may take a long time and be painful.

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    • Wendy Enberg
      July 16, 2016 at 2:49 PM
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      I think your comments Shauna are a little inflammatory on the topic of suicide. Show some compassion on a sensitive subject.

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  • Teri Montgomery-Shelly
    July 16, 2016 at 12:45 PM
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    Couldn’t agree with you more Jody. It’s a joke over at city hall. Nothing but swollen heads and fairy tail dreams. Accountability is a huge problem and it’s always after the when and if the admit to “screwing up”.
    Stupid ideas like a fanicular and permanent bike lanes in a winter city is nothing short of a joke. We aren’t Calgary and we never will be. But we, the tax payers are on the hook for the costs. If they would do something right for once instead doing it 2 or 3 more times to rectify mistakes made, maybe we wouldn’t have to face a huge tax increase year after year. It’s not their money so no, they really don’t care that these large projects are costing us, nothing but money and time.
    Three million for what they paid for on the High Level is inexcusable. Aren’t these projects monitored to make sure they are done properly? If they were, someone should have caught on to the fact that it was doomed from day one. grrrr! It just pisses me off to no end to see and hear about all these projects gone wrong and we are the ones paying for it.
    Our city counsel in nothing but a bunch of swollen headed babies that are more into bullying and intimidation than they are into making proper choices for the people they represent. That being said, this is my opinion only and others are entitled to their own opinions.
    Nice write up Jody, as always I love reading your rants and raves because they are well thought out. ❤️
    P.S. And don’t get me started on the Thalas balls or whatever they are. 😉

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    • Randall Deynaka
      July 16, 2016 at 7:53 PM
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      Ian Lambertus doesn’t change the fact that those balls look stupid. I understand what art it. Just because it’s an expression of creativity doesn’t mean it’s a good expression. Take the likes of Justin Bieber or Jackson Pollock for example.

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      • July 17, 2016 at 10:11 AM
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        Ok, just to clarify, those stupid balls… They really are terrible but the government of Alberta has a clause in their contracts which requires 5% of a project, which they are funding over a certain amount, is to be used for artistic pieces. The COE was in a bad position and went with the cheapest and easiest art piece to satisfy the ridiculous government clause. You should take this one up with Notley…

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    • Ian Lambertus
      July 16, 2016 at 7:05 PM
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      Jesus.

      1) it’s a “funicular”. if you’re going to hate on something you should make sure you know what it is you’re hating on.
      2) the public art off the Whitemud is called the Talus Dome. you obviously are unaware of what a talus dome is or what public art is for.

      please do yourself a favour and try to educate yourself on the things you seem to be judgemental of so you don’t come across as a mindless sheep bleating with the herd.

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    • Graham Bakay
      July 16, 2016 at 8:18 PM
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      Randall Deynaka To you, maybe. But when is art supposed to be everything to everyone? Objectively, the Talus Done is *by far* the most successful piece of public art ever created in Edmonton, as it generates the most interest, both for and against.

      I personally love it, and the fact you even have an opinion on it means that it’s done a fantastic job as a public art piece.

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    • Teri Montgomery-Shelly
      July 16, 2016 at 9:10 PM
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      Ian Lambertus, as I mentioned it’s my opinion, I have a right to it as do you. If you don’t you don’t like it, skip over to the next message. No need for name calling. Seeing you are so educated, you should be a better person about it. Nothing I wrote was directed at you personally.

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    • Ian Lambertus
      July 18, 2016 at 6:08 PM
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      Kate, it’s cuz you have to be tagged in order to get notifications to the reply. I don’t spend my days trolling these pages.

      Can you explain to me how I was being uneducated?

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    • Kate Mackinnon
      July 18, 2016 at 6:13 PM
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      Read my response to your comment on my response. You made an uneducated, judgmental comment about something you have no idea about.

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    • Kate Mackinnon
      July 18, 2016 at 6:13 PM
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      FYI, two people in this post did tag you. Why your name isn’t highlighted anymore, I can’t tell.

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    • Ian Lambertus
      July 18, 2016 at 6:09 PM
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      Teri, i was just trying to help you not look so stupid. Open a book, you dizzy c.

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  • Natalie Ritosa
    July 16, 2016 at 12:18 PM
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    The high level bridge is more than a decade old? Who woulda thunk? Did the author mean “century”?

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  • July 16, 2016 at 1:32 PM
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    Ah. Now I see what your prior comment on your photo was in regards to.
    To be honest, I never have this issue a full thought. Other than ‘a fence is a good idea’, and never really followed any of the articles after.
    Reading this, I get it.
    It looks jailhouse to me in design. Very ghetto. But then how do you make a tension fence look Martha Stewart? And the fact that you can just crawl under the gap to gain access to jump if you want does defeat the purpose! Where there’s a will, there’s a way, right? To address the issue for that and the cyclists, could they not have just expanded the posts and then added the wires? Then there would be no gaps and the cyclists would still have room to ride.
    At least hover, the city has acknowledged their flub. Let’s hope however they find a way to correct the problem without squeezing us to hard.

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  • Ed Bloom
    July 16, 2016 at 2:00 PM
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    This is how city council fixes things. Spend millions, and pray it works, or the problem magically goes away and everything is rainbows and unicorns. They should be fired just like you and i can, by not doing the job right. When are they gonna be held accountable for their shoddy actions. Maybe the police should step in and open an investigation into some backgrounds.

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  • Donna Bryan Hallgren
    July 16, 2016 at 2:32 PM
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    I completely agree with your opinion piece, Jody. There’s not much more to say other than I simply don’t ride my bike to the south side anymore. Since I also don’t like driving there and dealing with parking, I just don’t go to the south side much at all these days. Too bad for those businesses I used to spend money at, I guess.

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  • Dan Schafer
    July 16, 2016 at 4:56 PM
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    Should have pre-fabbed extensions of same pattern to add to top of existing guardrails. Shop work cheaper than field work. Limit the amount of field work.

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    • July 17, 2016 at 10:03 AM
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      Agreed, and scrap this whole second lowest tender thing. It just breeds artificial inflation of cost, along with miles of bureaucratic red tape. Imagine what COEcoukd achieve if they just pulled their heads out of their asses.

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  • July 17, 2016 at 9:38 AM
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    So the city puts up barriers to stop people from jumping off the bridge, not to address the actual issues. They had the option of funding suicide prevention, but elected to put up a barrier instead. This effectively is saying that the city understands that suicide is an issue but would rather prevent people from jumping off the bridge so they may live in misery instead of helping them… Or just displace the suicides. Either way, it’s just for the cameras to say “look we care.” Classic city.
    Also, why did this dystopian symbol cost so much? The city takes the 2nd lowest bid for any project, rather than having a rating system for contractors and bids based on lowest cost and best work in previous projects. Over the years, this backward system has forced bidders to increase their bids by as much as 60%, just to be competitive. If I were bidding on a city project, I cannot provide the actual price of my work, because I won’t get the job. The rule of thumb, for city projects, is multiply the overall cost ba about 0.5 to 0.6 and that’s the actual cost.
    Thank you again, City of Edmonton, you never cease to amaze us.

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  • Brittney Castle
    July 17, 2016 at 8:00 PM
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    Just means that the person really wants to put the effort into killing themselves.

    Extremely well written Jody. Thanks for the read.

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  • Kate Mackinnon
    July 16, 2016 at 1:04 PM
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    The fence has been up for a while. I saw it a couple of months ago and thought the same. That’s not going to deter anyone at all. I honestly don’t know how the materials and labor equated to $3M either. It looks like the project of high school shop class.

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    • Kate Mackinnon
      July 16, 2016 at 7:40 PM
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      Oh sweetheart, you’re bitching to the wrong fucking woman. I am quite familiar with suicide. Especially when I frantically searched the city of Edmonton for four days looking for my brother who went missing. Having the police and my sisters drop everything in my lap. I also had to pull his ID out of his wallet covered in blood, bodily fluid and parts of his skin because he decomposed so quickly because of the August heat. His personal effects were in a biohazard bag yet I still had to go into it. I know what death smells like. I also had to go find where his body was found by the police to cover up the mess to spare my sisters. What I learned has scarred me for life and I still haven’t told my family how he actually died. Our parents have been dead for years so it was all on me. A flimsy little fence will NOT deter someone who truly wants to end their life. I’ve been to all the therapy groups and information groups which included suicidal people so educate yourself before you make any other asinine comments.

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    • Ian Lambertus
      July 16, 2016 at 7:08 PM
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      giving people who are literally on the edge one extra barrier between life and death is probably enough to deter at least one jumper — is $3M not justified to save one person’s life? if you find this excessive i would love to know what value you would place on a human life.

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  • Stacy Anhorn
    July 17, 2016 at 2:18 AM
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    I do like the idea of a barrier to help slow down or stop suicide. But this clearly was not designed to be effective or safe for others. It needs to be fixed, and it should come out of the pocket of council members not the tax payers! Well written Jody Mitoma

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  • Jasmine Hayes
    July 16, 2016 at 6:28 PM
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    I think they should have put a whole entire fence around it like they did to that walking bridge where those kids were throwing rocks onto the road from… If anyone remembers when that happend .. But it would just make alot more sense why half ass it. The bridge being fenced is a start to suicide prevention I guess…. But $3 million dollars are you insane… For that….. Mind blown. City of Edmonton you have done it again.. Way to make us look like fucking Tards

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    • Ian Lambertus
      July 16, 2016 at 7:09 PM
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      …are you friends/family of the little girl and mother in your cover photo? i’m sorry for your loss

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