Friends and family gathered to remember

Hope moves forward
Candlelights still burning on May Street
Hope moves forward
Candlelights still burning on May Street

THUNDER BAY – Editorial – Family and friends of Travis Beardy Cutfeet gathered Sunday night at the place where the young man fell. A candle light vigil was held. Prayers where spoken of a young man who died in Thunder Bay’s first homicide of 2013.

There were tears shed and there were stoic young people left wishing that things could be different. The grief was strong. The people gathered created a makeshift memorial. It is a part of the healing process.

Family and friends gathered

For those gathered, tears were mixed with stoic faces. Many of the men were sad. Women were in tears. Young children were seeking the arms of adults to hug them. Even for the littlest children, who are often more perceptive than we think, you could see they knew all was not as it should be.

At such times, it is easier for outsiders to look at the situation facing many people in today’s society, and simply say they should make better choices. 

The young man’s future was snuffed over, apparently over a dispute that involved $40. 

You read that right, $40. It makes the terrible incident even worse.

The bigger story however is that here in Thunder Bay it is time to make choices.

We can choose to look away.

We could choose to let the cycle of drugs, alcohol abuse, and violence continue. If we make that choice, we are condemning our city to a path none of us are interested in seeing Thunder Bay follow.

It is my hope we will all choose a better, smarter and more positive path.

What we can choose to step up and put in place the changes needed. That is a path that is not “politically left”, it is not “politically right” – It is simple leaning forward and making the best choice for our city and our futures.

Those changes would include offering sufficient services for drug and alcohol treatment facilities in our city. They would involve far greater bridge-building in our city with people coming from the far north. They would involve skills training, safe places, far better community living choices.

Today I spoke with a man, he commented that for nine long years, he has trapped himself in an ever downward spiral of alcoholism. He would like to quit. He does not know how. He will need help to do that.

Helping him, and others make the positive changes in their lives will make our entire city a better, and honestly put, less expensive in terms of the tax bill, place to live.

To effect change, everyone needs to embrace change. 

Thunder Bay needs to become a centre that embraces hope and embraces change. It is an area where Thunder Bay should be seeking to lead Canada.

Making those choices are not only common sense choices, those are choices that make sound economic sense too. If the political right sees saving money as a left wing idea, then they need to refocus their belief system.

It is time for Thunder Bay, Northwestern Ontario, and all of Canada to start embracing the business way of making a difference. 

If one steps back and ignores the emotion and social arguments, and simply focused on the economic reasons to change things, choosing a different path will save increasingly scarce tax dollars.

Start adding up the cost of policing, courts, and after conviction for the suspect in this homicide and it starts, very quickly to total hundreds of thousands of dollars. Those are dollars poured down a hole that doesn’t really change things when you come right down to it.

I am not advocating not punishing convicted criminals. To the contrary I am stating that rather than spend billions on a system that is clearly not working, we should be investing millions into keeping people OUT of the system in the first place.

If instead of following the same old pathway, what if the federal government, provincial government, civic government along with First Nations leaders were to step up to change the paradigm?

Instead of ever increasing costs of policing, enforcement and prisons – what if the process shifted to prevention, treatment, and skills development.

For the Prime Minister, who leads a government focused on making society safer. It would be a far smarter move than spending billions of dollars on new federal prisons to spend millions on preventing people from going to jail.

How does it work?

Here is an example. True story: A young man in our city, with years of addiction and petty crimes under his belt, finally decided enough and started to seek treatment. The waiting list was 14 to 16 weeks. 

He filled in the needed paperwork, and he waited. And he waited.

Prevention is way cheaper than reaction.

During that time, there was no counselling, no preparation for treatment, he just waited.

His addictions grew, and he ended up involved in a break and enter. He plead guilty, spend 18 months in the District Jail, and was released.

Honestly put, that 18 months could have been invested in education, training, and skills development. It wasn’t.

The reality

Another true story – a woman in Thunder Bay who did get into a treatment program, in North Bay remains in her private hell of addiction. Treatment alone isn’t the whole story. It is building up a network of support afterwards. 

When Thunder Bay does not have the needed treatment facilities we are shipping our problems off across the province, and then seeing the person who needs help basically left. On returning to the city all they return to are the same people who they knew and hung out with. 

It makes little social sense, and less economic sense. It is harder on the economy to leave things the way they are, than it will be to fix things.

Thunder Bay must do better!

Embrace change.

James Murray

As an after thought, should the political leaders choose to stay to the current path, maybe the alternative is to seek a federal Penitentiary to be built in the city. Almost half a billion dollars is being spent on the new court house in Thunder Bay. Using the logical approach to that, the next thinking is building new federal jails in the city to house the harvest of inmates the new courthouse is designed to deal with.

Hate Divides a Community

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