Change is afoot in downtown Fort William

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Downtown Fort WilliamTHUNDER BAY – Recent reports in the local media have suggested that the crime situation in the downtown south core is still not under control. NetNewsledger.com sat down with JP Fraser from LakeSuperior Art Gallery located in the historic old Woolworth building in the Victoriaville Centre.

NNL: JP, you are the owner of a local business in the downtown South core, what is your view on recent stories on the amount of crime in the area?

JP Fraser: One recent report interviewed Diane Petryna interview with the heading:  Forced out. This story does reflect correctly the conditions in the downtown Fort William area over the past year.

However since the transit bus terminal was moved to City Hall, and the present council started knocking on doors, and learned that crime is a issue across the city, things started to change.

I agree with her that her landlord Aldo Roberto, Lynn Peterson, and Police Chief Bob Herman were in denial when there was a community meeting a number of months ago.

NNL: What is the situation like right now?

Victoria Ave looking westJP Fraser: Once the election got into full swing in September, and once Keith Hobbs started to make his presence felt, there has been an increase police presence in the Fort William Downtown area, and in turn a marked drop in criminal activity.

NNL: Some people are suggesting that only by solving the root causes of crime, in particular poverty that we won’t see reductions in crime. Do you have any comment?

JP Fraser: JP Fraser: Yes poverty does play a small part in criminal activity. But to say that  all poor people are criminals is insulting in people who are poor.

Just because they are poor please do not label these people as criminals,

NNL: There are some in the community who place blame for crime on Thunder Bay’s Aboriginal population. What are your thoughts?

JP Fraser: Regarding the Aboriginal people in the Victoriaville Centre, by far they are caring parents, with very polite children, who are a delight when they visit our Art Gallery.

NNL: Have things changed?

JP Fraser: The answer is yes. Diane, we wish you all the best, downtown Fort William has moved on, and so should you.

NNL: Do you have any other comments you would like to add?

JP Fraser: A comment to the new council, it is not the million or billion dollar projects that are going to help our local business areas, but the small caring local businesses that will make or break the four areas of our city, Westfort, Fort William, Simpson street, Bay Street, and Heart of the Harbour.

The casino just siphons money out of our community and did not help our citizens, Marina Park, and the Court House will not save the downtown cores, but small positive steps by council will.

We still have a long way to go but with Council’s support downtown Fort William can again become a neighbourhood  that our residents can be proud of.


JP Fraser is a member of the Board of Directors of the Victoria Avenue Business Improvement Area and the Victoriaville Board of Management.

JP Fraser is also the owner of Lake Superior Art Gallery.

The photograph atop this article is of the downtown Fort William circa early 1960 or so.  If you have any details on the picture and would like to share them please email newsroom@netnewsledger.com.

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