THUNDER BAY – Editorial – In Toronto recent violence has authorities focusing on solutions. This summer’s gun violence in Toronto is mostly gang related. Two recent national media reports illustrate the depth of the problem. Grab a cup of coffee, and sit back and read, and see how our community is, in many ways ahead of Toronto. Yes, that is what I wrote, ahead.
In the Globe and Mail, Toronto Chief of Police was interviewed on July 31st 2012. “The long-term solution, he said, involves preventing these mostly young men from so-called priority neighbourhoods from going down this road by interceding in their lives when they are much younger. That involves continuing to provide opportunities, including employment, but first requires learning “more about these kids and find out where we lost them.”
“ ‘By the time you go, with a 14- or 15-year-old, and try to get them into a program and play basketball, some of these young guys are so completely lost to us that they represent such a significant danger, all we can do is protect everyone from them,’ Chief Blair said”. (Source: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/toronto/police-alone-cant-stop-gangs-toronto-chief-bill-blair-says/article4453547/ )
CBC Newsworld is reporting that increasingly, inside prisons, that gangs are recruiting new members. “Research commissioned by the federal government three years ago warned that any strategy must be accompanied by appropriate funding and trained, skilled staff to execute it, and that overcrowding could undermine the plan.
“In addition, the appropriate resources must also be made available so that any initiatives are properly supported. For example, staff shortages, overcrowding, and cutbacks on resources — in other words, undermining the capacity — will reduce the success of any gang management strategy,” concluded the team of experts from Calgary’s Mount Royal College”. (Source: http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2012/07/31/pol-prison-gangs-numbers-climbing.html )
This message should ring loud and clear in Thunder Bay.
Project Harrington has resulted in charges including that a criminal element in operation within the District Jail had people running a vast drug operation.
Building a safer community means starting at the base.
Thunder Bay has put in place several programs that are designed to help. The Crime Prevention Council, the Drug Strategy Committee, and several other initiatives are currently underway in our city.
Those programs are working to effect positive change in our city.
Likely without those efforts, and without the solid work of the Thunder Bay Police Service, working in combination with the OPP, Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service, and the RCMP, the situation in Toronto could have already arrived on our doorsteps here in the city of Thunder Bay.
The City is also moving forward toward putting in place Youth Centres in our community. This move is a positive step forward and likely with a solid strategy will make a major difference in the future.
There are several programs on-going right now in the city. The Boys and Girls Club run a number of programs in the summer and after school during the school year. The primary focus at the Boys and Girls Club are the younger people in our city. In Minnesota Park, the Evergreen Neighbourhood Project is another key forward step forward.
The New Hope Youth Centre, the Underground Gym, the Regional Multicultural Youth Council (RMYC) all operate programs as well. They are working with teenagers in many cases. All of the groups working with youth are playing key roles in our city.
Over the summer, the RMYC have been running Girl Power, and Band of Brothers. Both programs are targeted to what Toronto Police Chief Blair would say are “priority neighbourhoods”. The RMYC programs are free to the participants, and engage youth in focused programs run by youth for youth.
In addition there are community focused groups which are forming. In the Windsor neighbourhood, the Community Action Group (CAG) is working from within the neighbourhood. In the Limbrick Neighbourhood, The Mothers of Limbrick have formed.
The Mothers of Limbrick have put a solid vision statement forward. “Inspiring each other to success”. That statement was not formed as a result of any consultants reports, or marketing studies, it was formed by the moms themselves. It is a powerful message.
Working with the Boys and Girls Club, the Regional Multicultural Youth Council, and The Urban Boutique, a fashion show and barbecue will held in August to share the inspiration.
It is a great start to neighbourhood based community action. That is not to suggest for a second that the City isn’t taking positive steps forward too. The work at District Social Services Administration Board, and Thunder Bay Housing, now melding together is taking steps forward to put in tenant associations in the housing projects that they operate.
There are many good news stories in Thunder Bay as people across the city work toward building a better and brighter future for all of us.
There are times when it might seem things are moving slower than they should. That is normal, often for many in the trenches, the progress is hard to see. Perhaps it is not unlike a soldier in a major battle during a war. It takes time, distance and perspective in order to see the changes that are happening.
Soldiers on the front lines often do not realize the impact of their efforts.
For many there are more negatives in Thunder Bay than there are positives. It would be attempting to blow smoke to suggest that our city is perfect, but it would be equally wrong to say we are headed in the wrong direction.
Combatting problems means taking new directions on problems.
Here is a video entry by Gurleen Chahal, the past president of the Regional Multicultural Youth Council for the 2012 Joshua Hunt Safety Award.
Gurleen states, “This is my entry for the 2012 SOS Joshua Hunt Safety Award. It is a comprehensive plan on what we can do to prevent junior high and high school violence in the form of a video resource guide. It involves three steps:
1) Becoming aware of/stopping the root causes
2) Doing our part on an individual level
3) Joining the “Save Sammy” movement.
This is in memory of Joshua Hunt and all other victims of youth violence.”