THUNDER BAY – On Friday, in Thunder Bay a decision was announced that will have an impact in our community and across Northwestern Ontario. The decision not to fund the BIWAASE’AA Outreach program which will lead to the program closing down at the end of June is one of those decisions that will take youth in our community and open them up to problems. One of the young people I know, in Thunder Bay came through that program. This young man has come from a broken home, with a mother who lives from needle to needle full of drugs. She has made life choices that put her, and her family at risk. Her former boyfriend is an abusive addict who has spent most of his life in jail.
In closing down this program, Prime Minister Harper’s government is showing how short-sighted and how uncaring it can be when it acts in such a ham-fisted manner.
It was the seeds planted in this young man’s life at the BIWAASE’AA program that helped this young man turn himself around. To personalize this story, there was a day when Josh contacted me, his mother’s boyfriend had attacked her, and in attempting to defend his mother, Josh was thrown through a table. That then 15 year old arrived on my door in pain and in tears. I contacted then Staff Sgt. Keith Hobbs of the Thunder Bay Police Service. Keith was at home, on a day off, and came in and took the time needed to make a difference.
Josh commented afterward that for his whole life, he had no respect for ‘cops’ as he had seen things from the other side, not from the side of how police help. It was, I think a critical junction moment in his life. Right now, I wonder how many young people like Josh will lose the opportunity that BIWAASE’AA offered him, and what the long term cost of that to society will be?
It would have been simple for that young man to have grabbed a knife, or another weapon and attacked back. He didn’t, he rose above the hate and the anger.
It was a moment where seeing how the system is supposed to work, and that with people who care, almost anything is possible. Often in government, the big agenda of ‘getting tough on crime’ gets lost in the reality that preventing crime in the first place starts with having citizens having a sense of belonging and pride in their lives. That is what a program like BIWAASE’AA does. It is what the Boys and Girls Club does, and it is what the Regional Youth Multicultural Council works to achieve. It is happening at Dennis Franklin Cromarty School where the Principal and staff are wise enough to realize that the school is a key community portal for the youth.
So right now we are going to see, from this decision at the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs, a program in Thunder Bay being slashed. We are going to witness, unless common sense prevails, or some major sponsors come forward, five hundred young people who need a hand up, have that hand ripped away.
With this kind of decision we are creating greater problems than we are solving. I am starting to see in our federal government a determination for jets and jails, rather than people. The Liberals had their gun registry and other scandals. The Conservatives are determined to spend billions for fighter jets, hundreds of millions for new tanks for the military, and billions more in new prisons.
They are forgetting Canada’s history.
At the end of the Second World War, Canada disarmed faster than most other nations. The then Liberal MP from Port Arthur, and Minister of Munitions and Supply in the Liberal Government C. D. Howe was a strong supporter of disarming. Howe had critics both inside the Liberal caucus and outside who feared that Canada would after the war, fall back into a depression. There were those who feared Canada would fall behind the rest of the world.
Instead the post-war boom proved our greatest period of economic growth. People were moving into education, as veterans went to University under supportive legislation. People bought new consumer products and fueled the prosperity.
The Harper Conservatives are arming AFTER a war. They are spending billions of tax dollars on government programs that won’t educate people and won’t fuel economic prosperity. Cutting programs to pay down the massive debt is important. But unless Canada is planning more military engagements, we should be looking to cut the military spending, and invest in ourselves as well as pay down debt.
The Harper government likely believes that building prisons and buying fighter jets is red meat reality for their base. My guess is that the Harper Conservatives are simply ignoring too many opportunities right now to build a Canada that everyone can be proud of, and that will be the envy of the world.
A steady diet of red meat will leave one feeling bloated and sluggish. To thrive in the new economic realities, Canada needs the best education and to have citizens with the greatest opportunities to create and compete in the new realities.
That will not happen because we build new prisons, and it won’t be from new fighter jets.
It will happen once Stephen Harper starts realizing that the government that gives a hand up to those who need it, and becomes less intrusive in the lives and wallets of our citizens is really what a conservative government should be all about.
Right now the Conservative Party has little in common with its own past. It is little wonder it is forgetting the rest of Canada’s proud history.
Chief Content Officer