Thunder Bay City Council Back to Work

City Hall
Thunder Bay City Hall
Thunder Bay City Hall
City Hall is clean green and beautiful

Council Debates Youth Centre Funding, Disabilities Issues, Art Gallery 

THUNDER BAY – Thunder Bay City Council took a short break and is now back to work. 

Charlie Brown brought forward a presentation on finding a new home for the Brill Trolley Buses. Brown has come out of retirement, he served for thirty years as a Thunder Bay Transit driver. 

Brown has been working on this project for a number of years. Council has in the past supported the purchase of the Brill Trolley Buses, the former transit union president has been on this cause for a number of years. The Brill Trolley buses take you back in time asserts Brown.

Brill Buses a Part of Thunder Bay History

Charlie Brown shares the Brill Trolley Buses with Thunder Bay City Council
Charlie Brown shares the Brill Trolley Buses with Thunder Bay City Council


Interior view of the Brill Trolley Buses. Charlie Brown photo
Interior view of the Brill Trolley Buses. Charlie Brown photo

Brill buses were manufactured in Thunder Bay at what is currently the Bombardier manufacturing facility. Brown states that talking with Councillor Larry Hebert there is discussion of a Transit or Transportation Museum. 

Brown told Council “I am not here to ask for money, but I am here to open this up for everyone in Thunder Bay, and with City Council, so we can find a new home for the Brills”.

Buddies of the Brill 

The Buddies of the Brill are also looking for Transit related artifacts to display as part of the relocation and permanent display. Thunder Bay has a very long and rich Transit history starting with the the first municipality owned streetcar system in Canada in 1892. Streetcars were replaced in the 1940’s by the trolleys and they were replaced by diesel buses in the 1970’s. The changes are still happening with the inclusion of low floor buses and the future to include hybrid powered buses.

Many families in Thunder Bay have been part of the workforce that made up the transit system over the years, the Transit Union is looking for input from the community.

Councillor Rydholm asked if there were other locations where restored Brill Buses are run. There is, Council was told, in Vancouver. 

Councillor Pugh asked if Buddies of the Brill had been in touch with the group with the two streetcars. Brown replied that he would love to be in contact with them.

Mayor Hobbs commented that he might have a good contact for the group. Councillor Bentz asked if Administration has been able to help. Brown replied that they will be stored inside. And that is the agreement with the Transit Union and the City Administration.

Youth Council Presentation Indian Friendship Centre

Bernice Dubec the Executive Director of the Indian Friendship Centre
Bernice Dubec the Executive Director of the Indian Friendship Centre presenting to Council

Bernice Dubec,the Executive from the Indian Friendship centre along with a delegation presenting a proposal for a youth centre.

“This is an opportunity to educate yourselves about the Indian Friendship Centre and the Aboriginal Culture, in Thunder Bay”. 

Dubec shared with Council that of the estimated 10,000 Aboriginal people in the city, almost half are under the age of twenty-five. “This large population of children and youth will have an impact on the economy and future of Thunder Bay,” stated Dubec. 

The Indian Friendship Centre is seeking support from City Council for the help in services and programs at the centre. Right now over 2000 youth are being assisted in programs at the Indian Friendship Centre.

13% of those participants are non-Aboriginal. They are projecting that they will be helping more that 4,500 people in 2014. There were almost 4000 clients assisted during 2013.

The programs are geared toward promoting healthy lifestyles, and are drug and alcohol free as well as encouraging and supporting non-smoking by Aboriginal youth. The goal is providing training and assistance to young Aboriginal youth to move into employment efforts.

The City and the Indian Friendship Centre have been working together shared Dubec. The City of Thunder Bay has approved a solid youth centre vision that would assist in the development of youth centre.

Youth Centres Thunder Bay in the Chapple Building in the Victoriaville Centre is a pilot project, that was supported in 2012. The pilot project has had just over 2000 youth participating in its programs. There are two city staff members and volunteers working toward making the pilot project a success. That project is a public private partnership with the City of Thunder Bay, Wasaya Group, and Youth Centres Thunder Bay.

“The Indian Friendship Centre is looking to locate in the Prosvita Hall on High Street. the 35,450 square foot area would be the best location”, commented Dubec. “The centre would be open to all youth, and would be a one-stop-hub”.

The cost would be $1 million for the purchase of the building, and added funding for programs and ongoing expenses.

Councillor Hebert commented, “It looks like a great plan”. The Councillor asked if the centre proposed would be open to all youth. Council was told that “We take all persons who walk through our doors, and that it is a great opportunity to build bridges, and an opportunity to move our city forward”. Currently 13 per cent of the participants at the Indian Friendship Centre are non Aboriginal.

Councillor Foulds, commented, there is a huge list of services that you offer the community. What would happen if you don’t see this go forward?”.

Council was informed that the needs are there, and the Indian Friendship Centre is doing this, and the research over the past twenty years is leading to this plan. The Indian Friendship Centre has outgrown its current location. They have been forced to rent out additional facilities to house current programs.

“It has been a long time since the City has offered support to the Indian Friendship Centre,” commented Dubec. “A larger facility would assist us in offering more programs, including media production, music, and to help youth move forward in a positive direction”.

Councillor Johnson asked about the cost. $1.5 million would be needed in 2014 and an additional $1.5 million in 2015 fiscal year. The Indian Friendship Centre is looking to provide twenty-five percent of the cost. The total budget requirement would be $10 million. The Indian Friendship Centre will also be seeking support from the federal and provincial governments.

Councillor Pugh sought input on the financial costs. Councillor Bentz sought greater information on the full scope of programs offered by the Indian Friendship Centre.

Councillor Ruberto commented that he was not aware of the full scope of what the Indian Friendship Centre does in Thunder Bay. Ruberto wanted to know if First Nations were able to help support the project financially. Dubec replied that many of the First Nations communities are already struggling. “Share with us the benefits offered by the Indian Friendship Centre”, asked Ruberto. 

Dubec responded that “We are starting a project with Lakehead University, and we have received funding for research on the economic impact of Aboriginal people in our community”.

NAN has done a study on the economic impact of Aboriginal Organizations in our community.  “We were amazed when we began to add up how much money is contributed to the economy by First Nations, First Nation businesses and organizations,” said NAN Deputy Grand Chief Goyce Kakegamic, who organized the event. “We initially started this because we want to share with the general public how First Nations are significantly contributing to the economy of Thunder Bay and as more and more results come in, the figures are only increasing.

Councillor Boshcoff commented that “The history of our community has seen groups get together and plan. They fundraised, got unpaid volunteers to help, can you share where you are?”

Council was told that there are many benefits from programs that started as a result of the efforts and volunteers from the Indian Friendship Centre. “We need to support our youth, and they are feeling lost,” Dubec said. “We have to consider the youth who have been lost, do we want that to continue?”

Boshcoff asked about how many thousands of dollars that the City is already spending on Aboriginal related programs. Boshcoff said that the two staff in the Aboriginal offices, and in the Anti-Racism Committee, the total is large.

Dubec said that the Indian Friendship Centre has not received any funding.

Councillor Giertuga asked about how to pull funding out of the reserve fund and what the Indian Friendship Centre would do. Giertuga sought information that City Manager Tim Commisso sought to move to closed session.

A motion brought forward by Mayor Hobbes and seconded by Councillor Angus was tabled. The motion put the program over to administration to come back with a study and draft business plan be prepared. The report would come by the end of October. 

We need to empower our youth

Mayor Hobbs said, “We need to empower our youth”. 

“It is one of our four pillars in our community,” added the Mayor. “Youth Centres is the number one priority for citizens as noted in the citizen satisfaction survey,” added the Mayor. “We have to help finance all those groups, I am sure other levels of government will come to the party”.

Councillor Angus said he believes the need is now, and that from the aspect of how busy the Indian Friendship Centre is the idea is right.

“It really does make a lot of sense,” stated Angus.

Councillor Giertuga who was silent during the issue of a splash pad in his ward, wanted to know about how the Boys and Girl’s Club and how they would deal with an added $300,000 in funding.

Greg Alexander commented that Bev Ball would be sharing information with Council. Ball stated that the Youth Services Advisory Committee would come back to Council on the development model. As part of a broader community strategy the Boys and Girls Club would be included.

Councillor Ruberto states, “Investing in our youth is the best investment we can make. We get the biggest bang for our buck, when we invest in youth”.

City Manager Tim Commisso has been working on this project for some time, and has taken the needed responsibility for the effort. 

Councillor Virdiramo explained that he supports the resolution, and that the Intergovernmental Affairs Committee has been contacted.

The resolution on the Youth Centre passed with all Council supporting it.


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