Time For Action on Unity in Thunder Bay

Time for a four cornered table in Thunder Bay that will bring Unity - Image: deposit photos.com
Time for a four cornered table in Thunder Bay that will bring Unity - Image: deposit photos.com
Time for a four-cornered table in Thunder Bay that will bring Unity – Image: depositphotos.com

THUNDER BAY – OPINION – Once again Thunder Bay is in the national media and not for good reasons. A video posted on social media showing the alleged actions of a Thunder Bay Police Service Officer apparently striking an Indigenous youth has garnered massive national attention.

Thunder Bay Police Chief Hauth has acted quickly saying the officer involved has been served with papers saying the incident is under investigation. The Chief says the officer is off-duty. Citizens should be encouraging the new Chief of Police to take a strong stand and make sure our police officers are trained to the level that is needed to deal with the situations that they face on duty.

Having an independent investigation of this incident would also go a long way to building needed trust.

First Nations leadership from across the region and province have called for an independent investigation, a demonstration that despite efforts over the past years, the level of trust still is not there between First Nation leaders and Thunder Bay Police.

The Egan Street Incident video has lit up debate online with commentary on social media being very mixed.

While not all the details on the entire Egan Street Incident are clear, what is sadly all too clear is there is a major divide in our community. The Thunder Bay is divided along racial lines with a San Andreas sized faultline as a great divide between sides.

Despite the efforts to build unity, this incident has demonstrated just how far we have to go to be able to claim any gains in our community.

But hold on, it is likely to get a lot worse before it will get any better.

The next massive division will come as soon as next week. An announcement has come out that a report will be released on systemic racism on the part of the Thunder Bay Police Service. That report will likely generate just as much anger and division, if not more.

What isn’t being talked about yet is how do we bring our community together?

That is the goal we should all be working toward. If that isn’t the goal, all we are going to see is more and more of the same kinds of reactions to incidents.

We are going to see the potential for escalated violence. The Thunder Bay Police are stating the service is investigating threats of violence. The Bear Clan Patrol Thunder Bay are posting some frightening details of incidents of violence in our city.

The video came to light as our new City Council and Mayor was set to take office.

It aired all day Monday on the CBC News channel. CTV News carried the video and story as well. APTN National covered the story. Canadian Press has carried the news across the country.

The idea that Thunder Bay is just one of the cities in Canada dealing with racism, hate crimes and violence against Indigenous people are being seen as an attempt to whitewash the situation in our city by many Indigenous leaders.

There have been actions taken, but with each incident that happens, that “Business as Usual” approach is building up increased frustration and anger.

The laws of physics say for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

There is going to be a reaction from all of this. Just what that reaction is will be hard to say right now. The outrage over these kinds of incidents is growing. In many ways perhaps right now the situation in Thunder Bay is like a forest, there are dry conditions – tinder-dry conditions – and all it will take is a spark to cause a major fire.

The ideas being expressed that Thunder Bay is not the only city that has racism might sound like it is helping. The fact is this is the only city we have, and to accept racism and violence is only to further encourage it.

There are better ways forward. We, as residents in Thunder Bay, have to work together with our elected leaders, with our neighbours, and with the Indigenous leadership and with the grassroots people who have come to our city.

Thunder Bay is a community in transition. Lakehead University and Confederation College are attracting international students from around the world.

Think of this. What would be the reaction if nine of the international students studying in our city were to end up dead? Would there be the reaction from our leadership that Thunder Bay is getting a bad rap?

Would there be frustration from the media from outside?

Remember the old adage ‘As ye reap, so shall you sow’?

Thunder Bay has been sowing the seeds of this problem for a long time. That we are now harvesting the crop of failure speaks volumes.

Growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, I remember the smugness that “Canada isn’t racist, the United States is racist”. That smug and content attitude served to build the kind of racist foundation that many people came to believe was the status quo. It was comforting for people

So what are the solutions?

First, let us admit there is a problem. That is the first concrete step toward a real solution.

Next, let us stop pretending that saying that Thunder Bay is getting a bad rap over incidents of racism. This morning speaking to a colleague in Toronto, his comment was “Thunder Bay is the Alabama of the north”. This city is getting a reputation based on the perceptions people are getting of our community from the number of incidents happening here.

We need to be taking action to prevent, and to eliminate these kinds of incidents.

There certainly are issues in our city which need all levels of government to come forward and support the needed changes and support those changes.

Much of the change will start right here, and right now if we as residents of Thunder Bay have the courage to stand up and say “Enough”.

It is time for unity. The price of more of the status quo is a price none of us can afford.

James Murray

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