Alone, We Can Do No More
Sioux Lookout Calls on Other Orders of Government to Provide Support to Address Crisis in Mental Health, Addictions and Homelessness
Sioux Lookout, ON – The Council of the Municipality of Sioux Lookout is pleading with all governments – Federal, Provincial, Municipal and First Nations – to cooperatively join forces to work with all the people of Sioux Lookout to meaningfully address the crisis of mental health, addictions and homelessness so visible on the streets of Sioux Lookout.
The community of Sioux Lookout has had a long history of relations with Indigenous Peoples. We have shared challenges and difficult times together. The recent widely reported arrest of a youth in Sioux Lookout creates a focal point for positive change.
“As a community, we are faced with complex and varied challenges as a direct and consequential result of colonialism and historic trauma. Many Indigenous Peoples of the area and region have been impacted by failed government policies and the colonial mindset: dislocation from traditional territory, encroachment on traditional lands; and the failure of assimilation policies such as Indian Residential Schools and Sixties Scoop,” explained Mayor Doug Lawrance.
“There are lingering and intergenerational effects that continue to reverberate on individuals, families and communities. When it comes to the impacts of intergenerational and historic trauma on the Indigenous population, Sioux Lookout is undeniably impacted. We see and acknowledge the tragic realities of the social and health conditions of those adversely impacted on a daily basis: in the shelter, at the hospital, at various places of refuge, on the streets, and in policing and land ambulance statistics.
The impacts and effects of the ongoing historic trauma is an ongoing and growing crisis for both those impacted and the overall community. Municipal Council continues to be committed in a proactive manner to address the ongoing crisis. The Municipality has been advocating for assistance and for change for many years: for a fully resourced emergency shelter, for detox, for addictions treatment, for safe houses for youth and women, for transitional and supportive housing, for alternative justice methodologies, and simply for recognition of the unique challenges faced by the community and all the people of Sioux Lookout,” Lawrance said.
The Municipality, in partnership with a variety of stakeholders, has undertaken many initiatives to address these issues, and support the residents and visitors to our community, including:
• Worked with the OPP to create a Situation Table
• Formed Municipal Committee on Truth and Reconciliation (TRC)
• Municipal TRC Committee standing and presentation to the National Enquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG)
• Created Police Services Board (PSB) with Indigenous females as Chair and Ministry representative
• Worked with OPP to secure funding for a mental health worker at the detachment detention cells
• Participation and contribution in Ministry of the Attorney General’s Community Justice Centre study for District of Kenora
• Working with PSB, Friendship Centre, Equay-wuk (Women’s Group), to form Bear Clan and Youth Bear Clan
• Worked with the School Board on poverty reduction strategy
• Ally with First Nation agencies to make positive transformations in health, education, justice
• Friendship Accord with area First Nations
• Working with OPP and multiple agencies on Cold Weather Committee to keep people safe
• Advocate for housing, programs, services through all channels available – Kenora District Services Board (KDSB), Province, and Federal governments
• Worked with Kenora District Services Board to create a 20-unit supportive housing project
• Working with KDSB on new emergency shelter, housing for: outpatients, students, and seniors
• Working with a variety of local agencies on the development of a Community Safety and Well- Being Plan
Because the issues are complex, deep-seated and historic, we recognize it will take many parties, agencies, institutions and organizations to come together in the spirit of healing; to be proactive and less reactive. The time is now for true, honest and meaningful dialogue. We also realize there will be times of difficult dialogue. The issues are difficult.
The Municipality is committed to engaging in meaningful dialogue at a table of common understanding. As a community and people, we must speak to one another in direct and respectful ways. We must stop the practice of speaking to each other through the media and social media. The finger of blame must stop and we must all engage in a process of renewed relations for the betterment of all. We have done this before in Sioux Lookout – the Four Party Agreement between Federal, Provincial, Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN), and Municipal government resulted in the Meno Ya Win Health Centre and laid the groundwork for health care transformation in the First Nations of the NAN territory.
Mayor Lawrance articulated the underlying request: “We are proposing that a Task Force be formed through a process similar to the Four Party Agreement. The parties could include the Municipality of Sioux Lookout, First Nations (as represented by Nishnawbe Aski Nation and Grand Council Treaty 3), Federal and Provincial governments. The initial purpose of the Task Force will be to collaboratively set up a working group, a process, to address the impacts of social, mental health and addictions, and homelessness issues facing Sioux Lookout.”
To initiate the establishment of the proposed Task Force, letters have been sent to stakeholders at the First Nations, Provincial and Federal governments, and the Municipality anticipates a prompt, positive response to this call to action.