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Girl’s hit-and-run death renews calls for safer roads and school zones across Quebec

Click to play video: 'Quebec-wide protests call for safer streets, school zones'
Quebec-wide protests call for safer streets, school zones
The brazen hit-and-run death of a young girl last December has prompted protests and calls for safer streets and school zones across Quebec. Global's Brayden Jagger Haines has more – Jan 24, 2023

Parents, teachers and students took to the streets outside schools across Quebec to demand safer roads nearly six weeks after a young girl was killed in a brazen hit and run in Montreal.

François Desaulniers with the Collectif apaisement pour Sainte-Marie was outside Tuesday morning in Montreal. He said he hopes change will come to streets, school zones and that it will be a national prioty.

“We’re hoping to get the momentum going to ask for change to make our streets safer — not only for students and children, but for elderly people that need more time crossing streets,” he said.

The renewed calls for safety measures come after seven-year-old Ukrainian refugee Mariia Legenkovska was fatally struck while walking to school with her siblings on the morning of Dec. 13, 2022. She had recently arrived in Montreal with her mother and siblings, while her dad stayed back to fight against the Russian invasion.

The driver of the vehicle turned himself in to police several hours later. Juan Manuel Becerra Garcia, 45, was charged with failing to stop after an accident resulting in death and he was granted bail with several conditions. He is expected back in court in early March.

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Mariia’s death has prompted protests in the city and now provincewide, but it has also had a lasting impact on families in the neighbourhood.

“She died between our house and the park where we go every day,” Gwen Lelu said, adding her children “have been traumatized.”

The hit-and-run tragedy has since prompted the City of Montreal to implement more traffic-calming measures on local streets. Municipal officials have also vowed the surroundings of 50 establishments frequented by children, including schools and daycare centres as well as two parks, will be made safer by the end of 2023.

But those who took part in the protest Tuesday want changes across Quebec and are demanding action from politicians who sit in the provincial legislature. Desaulniers said children should be able to safely get to school.

“We want reduced speed, we want there to be school zones where we’re closing streets so the kids can come to school,” he said. “We want smaller streets, greener streets and, of course, to reduce the amount of cars crossing those school zones.”

Mariia Legenkovska is seen in a family handout photo. GAC

Québec solidaire MNA Manon Massé said the provincial government “has a role to play.”

“Montreal did its job, but Quebec has to do something by changing traffic rules, putting money to help municipalities to act,” she said.

Read more: 20 pedestrians fatally struck in Montreal streets: SPVM 2022 annual report

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A preliminary report released last week from Montreal police showed 20 pedestrians were killed on the city’s roads in 2022.

The latest figures from Quebec’s automobile insurance board, the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ), showed 39 pedestrians died on the province’s highways and roads in the first nine months of 2022. That’s a rise of 14.7 per cent compared with the previous year.

The board’s full report for 2022 will be released in March.

The SAAQ told Global News on Tuesday that it is currently funding campaigns aimed at encouraging drives to slow down. They are underway in several municipalities across the province.

— with files from Global’s Tim Sargeant and The Canadian Press

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