Solutions are found with public engagement

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THUNDER BAY – Looking at the debate over a curfew, it is usually a good point to start by looking at current legislation. In Ontario there is curfew legislation currently in effect.

“From Child and Family Services Act, R.S.O. 1990, CHAPTER C.11

Allowing child to loiter, etc.

No parent of a child less than sixteen years of age shall permit the child to,?(5)

(a) loiter in a public place between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m.; or

(b) be in a place of public entertainment between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m., unless the parent accompanies the child or authorizes a specified individual eighteen years of age or older to accompany the child.”

I am not a lawyer, but, reading this current Ontario Statute, it appears that the onus is on parents, not teens not to be “loitering in a public place”. So in other words the parents would be the ones deciding that their children are out or not. If there were charges laid, it would not be on the youth, but rather the parents.

That might allow some needed reality to the situation where residents are finding their cars broken into, or buildings vandalized, or other issues that have become increasing problematic.

Talking with many people it has hit a point where the crimes are simply going unreported. People are angry over crime but are also realizing that the Thunder Bay Police Service is, for the most part, powerless to do anything about the crimes of that nature.

Unlike some people, who have commented on this being a Charter issue, or that it is illegal or immoral, the other side of the law is that the youth would have to be loitering to be impacted by the legislation.

In other words, a teen headed home from work, driving through the city, or waiting for a bus would not be impacted. A teen hanging out wouldn’t be grabbed, and jailed, but likely taken home. As much as some people would like to envision the goal of politicians and police to prefer a “police state” in the massive vast majority of cases they are not seeking greater time in court on small issues like a curfew.

Reading comments from some City Councillors in the media, it appears that too few are taking the time to research what legislative tools are already on the books that could be used to tackle problems. There is a jump to rhetorical commentary rather than research.

In communities far to the north of Thunder Bay, Aboriginal leaders are commenting on the problems in their communities. In Eabametoong, where a state of emergency has been declared, Wawatay News in a special report on the community state:

“Community members have a variety of ideas about what the root cause of the violence is.

“I think there is a major issue with parenting in our community,” the anonymous woman said. “The kids are out all night when they should be at home.”

“Slipperjack agrees. “There is a lack of parenting,” she said. “The younger generation of parents, they are too busy doing their own stuff to take care of their kids.”

“If no one is looking out for the youth, they are more likely to find trouble, she said.

“That could mean bullying, trying drugs or setting fire out of boredom.”

(Source: http://www.wawataynews.ca/archive/all/2010/11/12/problems-eabametoong-have-been-building_20645)

There are solutions. First steps are in many cases already underway. The Boys and Girls Club of Thunder Bay is building a solid reputation as a good place for local boys and girls to spend their time engaged in activities.

The Club is moving toward a “Teen Zone” as well, which may take a little time to get going. The issues in many cases are age-old when it comes to teens – “There’s nothing to do” or “That’s boring” are common.

One of the solutions could be found in simply changing how social assistance payments are issued. Others could be in having people receiving social assistance also be offered use of the Canada Games Complex so they have a positive family activity.

Other solutions should be found in engaging many of the people receiving assistance. Often welfare in Ontario is seen as a “hand out” rather than a “hand up”. Perhaps as a requirement for social assistance there should be a form of engagement in the form of volunteer hours in the community.

Students in Ontario high schools are required to perform forty hours of volunteering in their communities. It is a great way to engage teens into the community. Many of the teens do far more than the minimum forty hours.

It would be a great way of engaging people into helping put back too. In addition, getting people more engaged in our community would be a good idea.

One of the points that Mayor Elect Hobbs has raised is that getting the public engaged in the process is important. Based on the public input and discussion generated on Facebook and on local news sites, that engagement is there.

This issue is not a simple black and white issue as some see it. The real power in the ongoing discussions are that people are showing that they care. That is a key component to making Thunder Bay better.

For one, I welcome the discussion and the engagement.

James Murray

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