By Frank Pullia
THUNDER BAY – LIVING – As the Children and Youth Advocate for the City of Thunder Bay for the last three years, I have been quite involved and collaborated with many community organizations whose aim is to create a better future through an inclusive, safe and welcoming city for all and especially youth and children.
The events of the last couple of years and the tragic loss of Indigenous youth in Thunder Bay waterways, has created a new sense of urgency in finding suitable solutions aimed at preventing such tragedies from reoccurring. Much discussion has already taken place and actions like the waterways audit and possible drone, as well as remote camera technologies, are being considered as a safety measure.
While anything that advances the safety of our citizens and especially children and youth should be fully explored, the rapid advances in mobile technology and the uses of apps by young people now provide solutions that were not previously available. For example, the use of free or low-cost apps that alert parents when their children or teenagers arrive at their destination like school or a friend’s house, can now be readily scaled to provide a higher level of security to select groups like Indigenous youth coming to school to Thunder Bay from remote communities, or international students who need to provide reassurance to their families about their whereabouts.
With the increased deployment of fibre-optics by Tbaytel in our city and region, Internet connectivity in the remote Indigenous communities, the vast networks of the Thunder Bay Multicultural Association as well as Lakehead University and Confederation College increasing number of international students, new opportunities are now emerging for a greater level of community collaboration that would demonstrate how technology and data can play a vital role in student safety risk mitigation and crisis response management.
Such collaboration would create the opportunity to utilize the collected data to build behavioural models, provide data insights that can be used to reduce the mortality rate of children and youth, identify safety gaps, flag potential high-risk students and improve and/or build new programs/services based on evidence-based behavioural models just to name a few. Similar technology-based community solutions have already proven successful in reducing the incidence of abuse and death of children in care by over eighty percent in the State of Florida.
In conclusion, such a community-wide collaboration would complement current and proposed initiatives (cameras and other technology along the waterways) from a preventive perspective and greatly enhance the overall safety and well-being of our children and youth.
Frank Pullia is Councillor at Large and Children/Youth Advocate for the City of Thunder Bay. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 767-6579