Imagine taking your first steps in a new homeland. Adapting to new surroundings, culture, and colloquial expressions while bracing for your first winter in the Great White North. That’s the situation for many new Canadians, and winter driving is a major issue.
“It really is for many of them. They are concerned about sliding on the ice…I think some of the apprehension is just the unknown,” said Constable Keith Pitzel of the Traffic Safety Unit.
Pitzel formed a partnership with the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers (EMCN) and created a presentation for new drivers called Driving Canada. The presentation covers everything from driving etiquette, rules & regulations, to traffic circles and proper driving permits.
“I hear from other police officers all the time. ‘There’s so many people I stopped that just have a class seven learners permit, and think they’ve got a full driver’s license,’” says Pitzel.
“WHAT’S A TOQUE?”
The constable describes the experience as fun and interesting. He takes nothing for granted—even his own terminology. Pitzel covers how to properly clear a windshield, and recently learned that some words require visual references. He uses a picture of a classic Canadian comedy tandem to illustrate how drivers should dress for cold weather.
“I have to explain what a toque is because that’s a uniquely Canadian term. I show them a picture of Bob and Doug McKenzie. They say ‘Okay, I know what that is.’”
Julie McArthur with EMCN says students are very engaged, and attendance is high for the presentations. She also believes the experience is changing how new Canadians perceive police.
“I think it’s a great opportunity…because back in their home countries, for a lot of them, there’s a different relationship with the police, which is often really negative,” said McArthur.
Pitzel plans to keep the program going and says there’s room for expansion because more questions raise more issues.
“We showed them how to install the car seat properly…We can look at something like that, but that’s not something we would’ve thought of until it came up and people started asking about it,” said Pitzel.