Thunder Bay Facta non Verba on Children and Youth Issues?

City Hall
City Hall

THUNDER BAY – POLITICS – Thunder Bay faces critical challenges in supporting its youth, particularly within Indigenous communities, amid rising concerns over suicide rates, the opioid crisis, and police relations.

Despite political affirmations valuing children as the future, the city hesitates to appoint a dedicated advocate for children and youth, signaling a gap between proclaimed intentions and practical measures.

Renewed Calls for Advocacy

The urgency to address this oversight was amplified by the Regional Multicultural Youth Council (RMYC) in a recent appeal to city officials. February 2023 saw RMYC President Tisha Duncan urging the city council to reinstate the Thunder Bay child advocate position, highlighting it as a pivotal step towards fulfilling commitments made during a political gathering on January 26.

Duncan’s appeal underscored the critical role of the advocate in resurrecting the Thunder Bay Children’s Coalition and mobilizing community efforts to implement the Seven Youth Inquest Recommendations.

A Legacy of Unmet Recommendations

The call to action is rooted in the tragic loss of seven Indigenous youths, whose deaths while attending school in Thunder Bay led to a 2016 inquest. This inquest resulted in 145 recommendations aimed at various agencies, including 31 directed specifically at the city, aimed at preventing future tragedies.

Despite these recommendations, city manager Norman Gale referenced a 2017 decision against re-establishing the Children’s Coalition, suggesting alternative measures and community organizations were sufficient for addressing children’s needs. Gale emphasizes that the coalition had not convened since 2010, and the advocate position had become undefined after the conclusion of its initiating community agency program.

Former Councillor at Large Frank Pullia last held the post, and invested significant time listening to youth and taking their concerns forward. Some on Council at that time likely saw the amount of actual work that the position took and were more willing to take on other responsibilities.

City Administration seems content with that too.

A Community’s Response

Gale’s statement also noted that city administration actively engages with groups and organizations focused on serving children and youth, indicating a preference for addressing advocacy needs through the inter-governmental affairs committee.

This stance, however, has met with criticism from advocates and community members who argue that a dedicated child and youth advocate is essential for effectively addressing the unique and pressing issues facing Thunder Bay’s youth. The debate continues as the community calls for actions that match the professed value placed on its youngest members, seeking a more direct and committed approach to safeguarding their future

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