One only has to take a look at the Toronto Star to see the spotlight that has been focused on Thunder Bay. Indeed, many issues appear to be getting more attention in Toronto and the national press than in Thunder Bay itself. The ultimate economic spillover on our community in terms of its potential as a good place to invest and do business is in serious danger. This is not good for the community and if you think I am exaggerating the potential negative long-term impact that this could have on the city's image and ultimately its economy, take a look at the list of stories that have appeared in the Toronto Star since early May. If you were an investor planning to open a business in Thunder Bay, a tourist thinking of visiting or a student planning to attend the university or college, how would you react to the following list of stories that mention Thunder Bay - just from the Toronto Star?
May 9, 2017 Fourth indigenous girl dies while in child protection
May 12, 2017 Tammy Keeash's death 'consistent with drowning' according to post mortem
May 17, 2017 First Nation’s family rejects Thunder Bay Police explanation for teen’s death
May 19, 2017 Thunder Bay police investigate after body found in McIntyre River
May 20, 2017 Ontario watchdog expands probe of Thunder Bay police
May 21, 2017 Thunder Bay review of police practices with Indigenous people to include two recent cases
May 23, 2017 Thunder Bay police chief charged with breach of trust
May 24, 2017 Thunder Bay police chief’s charges tied to issue with the city’s mayor
May 29, 2017 The case for abolishing solitary confinement
May 31, 2017 Indigenous leaders call for RCMP to investigate deaths of young people in Thunder Bay
May 31, 2017 First Nations leaders call for RCMP to take over Thunder Bay teen death cases
June 5, 2017 Thunder Bay police need outside help to solve deaths of Indigenous youth: Editorial
June 6, 2017 Chiefs demand answers on Thunder Bay river deaths
June 7, 2017 OPP agreed to Thunder Bay police request to review man’s death, commissioner says
June 8, 2017 Not ‘necessary’ for RCMP to review 3 Indigenous deaths, Thunder Bay police say
June 14, 2017 Province shuts down three Thunder Bay foster homes
June 14, 2017 RCMP should investigate deaths of Indigenous teens in Thunder Bay: MP
June 23, 2017 York Regional Police now investigating Thunder Bay Indigenous teen deaths
July 3, 2017 Thunder Bay police investigating double homicide of 2 Indigenous people
And the most recent contribution and I think coup de grace that juxtaposes Thunder Bay, lawyers, politicians and clowns in one story....
July 12, 2017 Thunder Bay lawyer facing sex assault charges caught in bizarre video rant filmed between alleged offences
None of this is good news for Thunder Bay and the damage to the community's reputation is incalculable and represents a crisis. Add to this stories on Bombardier and the TTC like this one...
....and one starts to see that ultimately Thunder Bay's depiction as a place of violence, racism, questionable institutions and weak economic ability is becoming an ingrained feature of external media coverage. Racism is a problem in Thunder Bay. Yet, not everyone is racist. Painting the entire community of Thunder Bay with a negative brush is not going to help resolve the serious issues that have arisen. Moreover, the picture being painted of Thunder Bay as plagued by deep rooted institutional problems is also unfair given that it is 2017 and the city's institutions, policies and procedures are governed by provincial and federal rules, regulations and funding and are not being made up locally.
Thunder Bay has issues, of that there is no doubt but these are issues that everyone needs to work together to address. They require the city's political leaders and regional leaders - municipal and First Nations - to take responsibility and work together to resolve them. Thunder Bay's municipal leadership has been conspicuously quiet in recent months in providing public leadership while First Nation leaders have not missed an opportunity to make public statements.
The situation facing many residents of First Nations is deplorable and an embarrassment given Canada's wealth and economic development. Yet, ultimately, these are not just Thunder Bay's issues. For example, the long-term economic welfare and future of indigenous peoples in the north requires investments in health and education. It is the Federal government that has the primary relationship with First Nations - the nation to nation relationship. It is the provincial government that usually delivers health and education. There needs to be federal-provincial coordination. The issues facing First Nations in Thunder Bay are not just Thunder Bay's challenge but also a challenge facing Ottawa and Queen's Park. It really is time for all sides to step up and deal with the issues and generate steps that provide solutions. It is time to move forward.