Youth in Thunder Bay stated they need safe places to hang out and socialize

Quinn Spyrka shares how important a Youth Centre is for youth - "Today is our day it marks the day where first nations youth and all youth can have a place to stay whether there stressed from school or can't go home it is our second home".
Quinn Spyrka shares how important a Youth Centre is for youth – “Today is our day it marks the day where first nations youth and all youth can have a place to stay whether there stressed from school or can’t go home it is our second home”.

THUNDER BAY – Updated – Youth in Thunder Bay stated they need safe places to hang out and socialize. It is a message that the City of Thunder Bay and the Wasaya Group Inc. have heard very clearly. That message has resulted in today’s opening of Youth Centres Thunder Bay which offers high school aged youth that safe place.

That message was drummed home today by students from Dennis Franklin Cromarty School who found out earlier today that a graduate, now attending school at Confederation College just passed away. That sad news focused the energies of the participants at today’s announcement of plans for opening of a new Youth Centre in Thunder Bay.

Quinn Spyrka, a St. Patrick High School Student spoke about how today was for youth, and how youth rely on their friends. Spyrka said youth can’t afford to lose any more friends. “Today is our day it marks the day where first nations youth and all youth can have a place to stay whether there stressed from school or can’t go home it is our second home,” stated Spyrka. “The DFC drum group (that just played an honour song for the lost youth) they all know me, they are my friends. I can’t lose any more friends, and neither can they. We need to work together and make this work”.

There was hardly a dry eye in the audience as Spryka shared exactly how important having a safe place for youth in our city really is.

Youth Centres Thunder Bay announced the launch of the new youth centre, a public / private partnership. Pierre Mapeso, President of Youth Centres Thunder Bay said, “There is a ton of work in the background in creating a solid foundation, with tremendous work from the City of Thunder Bay team, our Youth Centres Thunder Bay team, and the Wasaya Group team. We would like to acknowledge these teams and especially all the staff and active members of the community that have made contributions to the new Youth Centre. We look forward to bringing an awesome, fun, and safe place for youth to go.”

“The young people and students want a better quality of life” stated Tom Kamenawatamin, President & CEO of Wasaya Group Inc (WGI). That message was delivered by parents and youth from across Northwestern Ontario in communities served by Wasaya Group Inc. “Last year we met with the students of Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School after hearing from our northern communities who had lost 7 youths to tragedy in Thunder Bay,” stated Kamenawatamin.

DFC Drum Group
Drummers from Dennis Franklin Cromarty School at opening of Youth Centre

“Those students made a presentation to Wasaya of what they wanted and one of the main requests included a safe place to meet and hang out. We have the support of many groups to move forward and help our youth. These groups include Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) The Chiefs of Ontario, The City of Thunder Bay, Youth Centres of Canada, Confederation College, NNEC, KO Student Services, and DFC High School just to name a few,” continued Kamenawatamin.

“Our contracting division partner, Dowland Contracting has also pledged up to $75,000 in planning and design work to move on phase 2 of our objectives which are a new High School complete with Student Residence with an Activity Centre for the Northern Youth. Last year Dowland donated $20,000 to our charity Wasaya Weecheewaywin and so we will additionally be putting that $20,000 towards this Youth Centre and yesterday Dowland Contracting donated and delivered $5000 worth of new furniture to the Youth Centre when they saw the need”.

“We got involved to make sure that the Youth Centre met the requirements of First Nation youth that come here from the north, as well as any youth from Thunder Bay that would like to attend, because this will help them all learn how to live and get along together. We must keep in mind that this is a temporary setup, a pilot project for the next 18 months that will lead to developing of a more permanent facility in Thunder Bay. The Youth need a safe place right now to hang out and Wasaya is proud to be a key partner in these initiatives,” added Kamenawatamin.

The City of Thunder Bay was also getting similar messages from parents and a coalition of groups, and was also working toward the building of a permanent youth centre.

YOUTH Centre
Mayor Hobbs, Tom Kamenawatamin, Pierre Mapeso at Victoriaville Centre

Thunder Bay brought in Les Voakes from Youth Centres Canada as an outside consultant toward developing, with engagement from young people and supporting organizations to put a ‘Made in Thunder Bay’ plan together.

The partnership with Wasaya Group, Youth Centres Thunder Bay, and the City of Thunder Bay as Kamenawatamin stated, is a pilot project for what will become some of those larger projects.

The new Youth Centre (YCTB) which is located at 711 Victoriaville Center, is also now actively seeking donations that will help fund student activities and these donations can range from financial support to volunteer time, to recreational equipment, tickets to events & activities, computers, technology, refreshments and healthy snacks. Additionally, YCTB plans to provide life skills training, and will be seeking food donations for cooking classes and “Work Skill Training” from the corporate field as these would be most welcome. A fundraising brochure is now available both at the Youth Centre or Wasaya Group.

JP Fraser, of the Fort William Business District BIA welcomed Youth Centre Thunder Bay on behalf of the one hundred and sixty businesses and property owners which form the Fort William Business District. “It is nice to see youth in our community who are committed, through this public/private partnership between Youth Centres Thunder Bay, The City of Thunder Bay, and Wasaya Group Inc, to making a positive difference in our city. All of the businesses are encouraged and excited to welcome you to our area. Thank you for coming to our business district.”

The new Youth Centre is expected to be fully operational shortly as hiring of staff & background checks are not fully completed yet and operational items like insurance needs to be finalized. In the mean time youth are dropping by as they pass through the mall to take a look and make their wish list known to staff and volunteers.

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