With social media, it’s easier than ever to organize an outdoor outing. We send out an invitation to a Facebook hiking group, set a meeting place and time, and presto!, a small group is formed. But even if the process is informal, the instigator of this hike can take on a certain responsibility in the event of an accident.
“From the moment we put ourselves in the position of organizer and are the instigator of an organized activity, even if it is very organically on Facebook and we have no remuneration or contract, we have the same responsibility as a supervisor,” says Gregory Flayol, program director at Rando Québec.
There is no real way to avoid this responsibility, as one could do in other provinces of Canada or in American states.
“The little paper that we are made to sign to say ‘OK, I relieve the organizer of all responsibility’ does not work in Quebec,” says Mr. Flayol. But we can have a risk acceptance document. »
He clarifies that he is not a lawyer and that there are obviously gray areas, especially when it comes to a group of friends leaving together.
“People have an individual responsibility,” he recalls. But was this release offered turnkey? Even if no money is exchanged, does it feel like you’re being taken care of? »
Above all, it’s not about stopping organizing outings.
“People who do activities on Facebook, these organic groups, it’s great, it helps communities get outside, we must continue to do that,” underlines Mr. Flayol. But we cannot try to shirk our responsibility. I would tend to tell people: make sure you have done the right things before leaving, develop good reflexes as a seasoned hiker. »
Rando Québec has prepared a Guide to the practice and safe supervision of hiking which lists the precautions to take and offers various tools to better analyze the risks.
The organizer can therefore check whether all participants are able to complete the proposed hike. A summer experience on Mont Saint-Hilaire may not be enough to climb Mount Washington in winter.
The organizer must check the weather, study the route, use reliable means of navigation, prepare an emergency plan, have a means of communication, make participants aware of the risks, check their equipment.
Rando Québec recommends first aid training in remote areas. It also offers hiking supervisor training.
“We don’t have to have a diploma, but we have to demonstrate that we did what had to be done, that we anticipated, that we thought about all these things.” says Gregory Flayol.
This question concerns Jean-François Lebeau, a hiker who sometimes organizes informal hikes on social networks.
“It’s something, giving responsibility to someone,” he says. If you even want to post something publicly, you have to protect yourself and do your homework. »
He consulted the Rando Québec guide, he understands the approach. But according to him, implementation remains problematic.
“Managing people is not that easy to do,” emphasizes Jean-François Lebeau.
In his eyes, it is not yet completely clear at what point an instigator becomes a supervisor, especially when we are talking about an outing with a group of friends.
Grégory Flayol believes that it should not make a difference on the pitch. “Actually, if they are real friends, and not just Facebook friends, you should take care of them even more,” he says.
He acknowledges that this issue can be polarizing.
“There are people who will say that we can no longer do anything,” says Mr. Flayol. But we do better to look at reality rather than burying our heads in the sand. We’re just talking about being informed to do the right things and to make sure everyone gets home in one piece and with a smile. »