THUNDER BAY – NEWS – Keeping youth in Thunder Bay safer can be done, and with the constantly expanding technology along with smartphones, there is a development ongoing to combine data and technology. That was the topic of a town hall meeting hosted by Councillor Frank Pullia, who is the city’s Child and Youth Advocate. Pullia has been, over the past year been meeting with youth groups, Indigenous groups, and city officials to discuss means of enhancing community safety and ensuring that youth in the city are safer.
It was a night of intense listening for Councillor Pullia as he continues to work on the efforts to make the lives of all youth in the City of Thunder Bay safer.
One of the opportunities available. “One of the tools we could explore,” Pullia says, “Is the use of smartphones and smart apps.”
Angelo Petta shared an overview of the eSafe pilot project concept to the almost fifty people who came out to a town hall Wednesday night. The audience was told that by using the available technology, there could be a developed eSafe Response Procedure. The goal is the establishment of safe zones, and high-risk zones, where the geo-fences would be established.
Geo-fencing – a virtual perimeter, or virtual fence around a specific geographic location is a practice that has been used in a number of ways to enhance safety.
The use of the data can also provide data on school attendance, curfew performance, and social activity. It could also, Petta shared could be used over time to help students to establish potential career goals.
“Right now it is a really small prototype, but the goal is to expand it to a larger group.”
The audience was told that the data could also be used to identify behavior patterns which could allow parents, and educators to see potential problems starting to arise and be able to start working toward solving them before they got out of hand.
Currently, working with Windigo First Nation, there are a test group of ten students who are using the application, which is based on a customized version of an app that is in practice already. The development of the idea has come as grassroots parents have sought ways to ensure their children are safe when they are in Thunder Bay either attending school or in the city for medical or other visits.
Josiah Begg, a young man from North Caribou Lake First Nation, part of the Windigo First Nations Council, was in Thunder Bay last year for a medical appointment when he disappeared. He had been seen at the skateboard park at Prince Arthur’s Landing, then on a Mainline Bus on Simpson Street, and then at the Kinsmen Youth Centre before being found in the MacIntyre River.
The meeting brought a wide range of questions over the use of technology.
Fort William First Nation CEO Ken Ogima raised concerns over the apparent focus at the meeting on Indigenous youth. Ogima, who stated he had met the day before with Councillor Pullia and Angelo Petta expressed that while he wants to see enhanced community safety he would have to know a lot more before he felt personally comfortable with the idea.
Ogima told the audience, “As an Indigenous father, I feel very uncomfortable knowing there is a plan to track my children.”
On the other side of the spectrum, the last member of the public was a woman who had lost her child. She expressed that she had lost her daughter and by contacting police and Tbaytel she had been able to find out after the fact where her daughter’s phone had last been.
Her view was that having the available technology could have helped save her daughter.
Michelle Lander from the Thunder Bay Multicultural Association said that especially with new immigrant children, this concept would be very helpful.
Thunder Bay Aboriginal Liaison Anne Magiskan expressed that there needs to be far more human interaction. Magiskan stated that there are families who are boarding homes for students from the north where as many as six students are being housed. She shared that in many cases in her view those boarding families are not home in some cases in the evenings when the students they are responsible for needing them to be there.
Magiskan also shared how greater person to person interaction is needed. She explained how in her view too many children are coming home and jumping onto Xbox or other technology and that isn’t good.
The geo-fencing application concept presented at the town hall meeting is not, Councillor Pullia explained part of a City of Thunder Bay initiative but was shared because it could offer solutions. The project is currently part of an effort from Windigo First Nations.