Sunday, July 8, 2007


Toronto's Bloor Viaduct (actually a bridge, and actually called the Prince Edward Viaduct) has long been known as the occasional jumping off spot for people dedicated to leaving Toronto - and everywhere on earth - permanently.

Far above the Don Valley and the Parkway, and with conveniently low railings, falling bodies inconvenienced the slow-moving drivers and slightly faster-moving joggers far below since 1919. According to one group, someone used to jump off the Bloor Viaduct every 22 days (not the same someone, of course). Toronto is proud of being "world class" about everything, but didn't like the fact that the bridge was the 2nd most popular diving spot for suicide jumpers in North America (darn you, Golden Gate Bridge!).

Then in 2003 the City of Toronto spent $6 million on a system of wires around the bridge's sides to foil would-be jumpers, known to the depression-prone artistic community as a "luminous veil". Conveniently, they also put a sign up at one end over a payphone with the suicide prevention number (quarter not included). God forbid they should spend $6 million on improving mental health services in the city. Then all you have to show for it is mentally healthy people and not a landmark "luminous veil" for tourists to wonder what the heck it is. This way there's a permanent momument to remind the voters how much the good councillors of the fair city care for the suicidal.

I suppose that's all well and good, even if there is another bridge a short hike to the north with no barriers and a definitely life-shortening drop. I suppose the theory is someone intent on killing themselves won't walk a few blocks. Saying you're going to jump off the Leaside bridge apparently doesn't have the same cachet - sounds so working class.

All of this is prologue to a little item that caught my eye a few months back. It was a news story that said that due to an electrical short, the wires of the "luminous veil" were charged for a while with enough electricity to give you a jolt. That left me with the image of some poor guy throwing himself off the bridge to be saved by the web of cables, only to find they were electrified. Sort of like a big bug zapper.

There's a lesson there somewhere, but I have no idea what it is.