THUNDER BAY – “I live here”. That simple statement was made by a man who lives in Thunder Bay. Sitting in the newly ‘Flower Bombed’ Bank in East Victoria Ave, the man sitting with friends commented how “College kids came and planted trees, flowers, and cleaned up”.
We all live here. We all face the challenges, problems and should all have equal access to the opportunities that our city, region and province offers.
Living here, in Northwestern Ontario is not a choice for everyone. Suicide rates are high, especially in the Aboriginal population. Communities across the region have on many times declared states of emergency of the tragedy of youth suicide.
We all Live Here
The idea that we all live here is one that isn’t totally true. Suicides in our region are higher than they should be. Media and the Thunder Bay Police do not usually report on suicides. One concern is that doing so might cause more tragic events. It is our region’s ‘Dirty little secret’ in many cases.
It is our ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’.
Building bridges in our region should be a goal at all three levels of government. Building bridges will make our region a better place.
Building bridges should be a focus at all levels of social services. Our Aboriginal population struggles in many ways from the ramifications of residential schools debacle. That policy to get the ‘Indian out of the child’ has led to generations of social problems, addiction, alcoholism and poverty.
The road to hell is paved…
Today, under the guise of ‘good intentions’ it could be argued that the same policies are still in practice. There are more Aboriginal children under social care, usually in the care of non-Aboriginal caregivers than at the height of the residential schools, or the infamous ‘Sixties Scoop‘. Until we start focusing on actually solving problems instead of ‘band-aid solutions’ as Westfort City Councillor Joe Virdiramo stated a few weeks ago, problems are not being solved, they are being put forward.
Making our city better, means more action not less action. It means, perhaps fewer committees, fewer meetings and more doing.
The road to hell is said to be paved with good intentions. In Northwestern Ontario, we should be paving a road to paradise with hard work.
Less patting ourselves on the back, less photo-ops and more real work would go a long way to making our region far stronger.
At ‘The Bank’ yesterday, local residents put that into action.
Dan Fulton, Carol Kajorinne, and a growing number of volunteers simply started doing the work that is needed. The flowers, trees, and cleaning up in the old CIBC property in the downtown South Core empowers the city, and builds bridges.
It is a project that has support from across lines. A few weeks ago, Councillor Aldo Ruberto was out making a difference cleaning up at the site.
Yesterday quietly, Mayor Hobbs was continuing his personal boots on the ground efforts. The Mayor was in the East End as part of Paint the Town helping volunteers paint over graffiti.
Boots on the Ground
Thunder Bay, just like ‘The Bank’ is a work in process. It is not likely to be finished anytime soon. It is going to take a lot of work, and a lot of people willing to step up and do that work.
There are lots of examples of how doing is working better than talk.
In the Windsor neighbourhood, Alaina King and the Community Action Group are making a major difference in a neighbourhood that ‘needs love’. Former NDP candidate Steve Mantis, Jessie James, and several supporters across the city are all helping the residents in the Windsor, Junot, Picton, Blutcher neighbourhood make a difference.
In Windsor, the Community Action Group got some amazing support from the last team from Katimavik that helped in Thunder Bay. The federal Conservatives cancelled the program. It is likely should Justin Trudeau become Prime Minister that the program will gain a new life again.
Building more solid neighbourhoods and getting out, cleaning up, empowering residents and
Their successes are Thunder Bay’s successes.
Same holds true in Evergreen, a United Neighbourhood. Linda Bruin and her dedicated team of helpers, again assisted by the City and other groups are carrying the neighbourhood to success.
Many are fast to offer their critical commentary in our city. Some feel that it is the negativity of some that continues to hammer our city and hold it back. When you talk to any resident who has returned to ‘The Emerging Thunder Bay’ one of the commonalities is that often Thunder Bay is still fighting the battles of the past. Victoriaville, The Community Auditorium, The Waterfront.. the list is sadly far too long.
Here are some potential solutions that could help make Thunder Bay a better place with bigger, stronger bridges:
1. Social problems are 24 / 7/ 365. The Thunder Bay District Social Services however run Monday – Friday from nine to five. From the DSSAB building on May Street workers head out on Friday for their weekend, leaving the people who often need them the most to fend for themselves for two days. In a 24/7 world, Thunder Bay should have the building and services open everyday.
Shuffling the work schedule to become a seven day operation would not cost much more but it would solve problems.
2. Needles discarded across the city happen 24-7. Superior Points should be on call seven days a week. As well, it would be a positive idea for the group to create teams of volunteers to tour the downtown streets and gather up the discarded needles that bluntly put litter our streets in far too many cases.
What solutions do you offer? There should be a massive list of real solutions that we can share.
3. Childrens Aid and Dilico should be building family units more than they are pulling families apart. It is not well known but there are more Aboriginal children who have been removed from their homes today than at the height of the Residential Schools, or the ‘Sixties Scoop’. Tearing apart families and offering little hope or real support to parents to get their family back together is only taking past problems and projecting them into the future.
4. Everyone you talk to knows that issues with addiction and alcoholism are serious problems. Yet there has not been a lot of solid action to really solve the root causes of the problems. That should be a focus for action. Period.
For those who think a tax dollar spent solving that problem is being wasted, the truth is those investments would save tax dollars.
Thunder Bay has enormous promise and potential.
We all live here. Lets make our city the best in the world and get it moving to reach its potential on all levels.