THUNDER BAY – An article featuring information on youth violence in Thunder Bay, the tragic murder of Joshua Hunt, the anti-violence efforts of groups such as the RMYC, and the explanation of the newly created “Save Sammy” anti-violence video and campaign.
The above are only a few of the many factors that trigger middle school and high school violence. Unfortunately, a life saturated by these factors is a reality faced by many Canadian citizens, not only in larger cities such as Toronto but here in Thunder Bay as well.
From both the beating of a man by three youths in February to the attack of a young woman by a man on South Court Street this past July, it is clear that reckless acts of violence committed to youth and by youth are found in our city.
Thunder Bay is not a stranger to youth-on-youth violence as well. This was seen two years ago, when a 16-year-old girl was murdered at the hands of two other teens (one fifteen, the other only fourteen).
Thunder Bay has made many valiant efforts to combat youth violence, and consequently the overall crime rate has dropped. Nonetheless, the aforementioned factors persist; meaning that acts of youth violence (although lower in rates) still occur and will continue to do so.
Thus, during one of my final ventures into Churchill’s Student Services office, when I discovered a magazine advertising the opportunity to create an anti-violence video for youth, I was immediately attracted to it. I was excited to do something to help promote anti-violence in our city and country.
The SOS Kids Magazine was calling Canadian youth to submit a comprehensive plan on how to prevent and ultimately eradicate junior high school and high school violence. The student with the strongest entry would have the privilege of receiving the Joshua Hunt Safety Award. Intrigued by the name of the award, I set out to find out more about the individual.
More on Joshua Hunt
Joshua Hunt was a 16-year-old boy who was murdered by a 17-year-old male only two blocks from his home in Edmonton, Alberta. He was stabbed multiple times with a butcher knife and died to the injuries sustained during this attack.
The accused 17-year-old that stabbed him was charged with second degree murder and two assaults with a weapon. Despite these charges, the previous criminal activities of the youth, and the judge denying the teen bail due to public safety concerns; the accused was released under section 31 of the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
[captionpix imgsrc=”http://netnewsledger.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/no-abuse.jpg” captiontext=”No Abuse is a message that needs to be heard – Photos by Gurlen” width=”620″ height=”610″]
Upon hearing this, the public as appalled that the accused could kill someone and just be released due to lenient youth crime laws. Consequently, they started rallies, petitions and received a lot of media coverage in Edmonton and across Canada with a tremendous amount of support. They sent in over 40,000 signed petitions over a course of 2 months to the federal and provincial government. Public outrage increased upon learning that the accused individual and his family had gone on to harass and physically attack the Hunt family with no repercussion.
In fact, the official website in memory of Joshua Hunt writes that at one point the accused went to the Hunt’s family home and attacked Joshua’s father with a hockey stick. The same website writes that “To this day nothing has changed.”
RMYC Youth Combating Violence in Our City
Upon hearing the story of Joshua Hunt, I was deeply disturbed. However, I can proudly say that in Thunder Bay, we are doing something about the safety of our city. There have been many efforts to reduce youth violence by the municipal government, the Crime Prevention Council, and even the youth themselves.
Youth groups such as the Regional Multicultural Youth Council (RMYC) provide outlets in order to turn troubled youth into trained youth. By molding positive peer leaders, the RMYC improves the quality of life for youth and gives them the chance to construct lives for themselves. They follow a “youth-to-youth” approach that is truly making a difference in our community. Kathleen Wynne, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, acknowledged their impact and took the time to visit the group this past July in order to find out more about the work that they do for the community.
Specifically, the RMYC members host free leadership workshops for youth, write reports for the City of Thunder Bay conveying the evidence they collect first hand from citizens, run an afterschool program at Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School that gives all youth free access to tutoring and recreational sports, run Girl Power (a female empowerment group that teaches young girls how to identify abusive relationships and steer clear of them), host community barbecues that gather information via surveys on how to improve the safety of some of the most violence-prone areas in Thunder Bay, and do so much more.
Due to financial circumstances, this hard-working group has been forced to move to a location adjacent to a local bar. This is a major safety concern for the youth that work there and those that use the RMYC services. Not sure how it’s a safety concern? Consider this: a 17-year-old girl walking home after attending an RMYC meeting and then being physically grabbed by an inebriated individual from the bar. The unfortunate part: that story is not hypothetical.
Luckily, the city has promised to find the group a more suitable location as soon as possible. Personally, I commend our municipal government on their ability to see the need for this outstanding group of youth in our community.
The Campaign and Video
The story of Joshua Hunt and the amazing work I see done by my RMYC peers and RMYC members younger than me served as my inspiration for this this anti-violence video and campaign.
The “Save Sammy” campaign video involves the creation of Sammy. I used fictional pictures of Sammy’s youth to help the audience develop a connection and empathy for the character. Then, I proposed a future scenario where the character (who the audience has now grown fond of) is killed at the young age of 15, in front of bystanders who do nothing to help him.
I then show how the audience can prevent Sammy’s premature death via three steps:
1) Identifying and stopping the causes
2) Playing their individual role
3) Joining the movement to “Save Sammy”
The video ends by showing the audience that the future scenario of Sammy’s early death can be prevented if they take steps now to end youth violence.
I hope that this video and the concept of the “Save Sammy” campaign encourages other youth and individuals in our community to do what they can to counter the triggers of youth violence in order to ultimately eliminate it.
Gurleen is a recent graduate of Sir Winston Churchill C&VI. She served as the Youth Representative on the city’s Crime Prevention Council and as RMYC President for the past two years.