NAN takes key role on urban safety issues
Nishnawbe-Aski Nation (NAN) Deputy Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler said the organization was compelled to the address safety issues of Thunder Bay after a First Nations woman was abducted, assaulted and left for dead on Dec. 27.
“It was mainly in response to the many calls from our leadership, our communities and parents during the holiday season and what they were hearing about here in Thunder Bay and the concern they had for their students coming back here for the second semester,” Fiddler said of NAN’s involvement.
NAN organized a community safety forum on Jan. 15, where community members were able to discuss any concerns they had regarding safety within the city.
“I thought one of the steps we could take was to bring the community together, the youth, the women, including the different police services to have that forum on Jan. 15,” Fiddler said. “To begin that conversation on how we can all work together to create a safe community for all, not just First Nations people, but for all the citizens of Thunder Bay.”
NAN presented a report with 13 recommendations on how safety can be improved within the city.
It is not the first time NAN is taken a prominent role in the safety of First Nations people in urban areas.
NAN played a large role in calling for an inquiry into the deaths of seven First Nations youth who were attending school in Thunder Bay.
Although NAN’s mandate is mainly to address the issues on reserve, Fiddler said it is not difficult to take on the challenges facing those living off reserve.
“I think at times like this, we’re obligated because we also recognize the fact there is more and more of our community members migrating or moving to centres like Thunder Bay and Timmins,” he said. “And if there’s issues there that our communities want to address, we will address those.”
Fiddler said he does not consider the safety initiative to be NAN-led.
“Though we did start the conversation, we see it for the whole community to be involved, including Fort William First Nation,” he said. “I think that’s what it will take to be doing this. What we all want to for everyone in Thunder Bay whether you’re a student, a First Nations woman, that you feel safe, that you feel a part of this community, that you feel welcome here.”
Fiddler said the report outlined some steps that can be acted on in the short-term, but he hopes more steps will be taken.
“We want this conversation to be ongoing, to build on what was started,” he said.
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