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NAN, Thunder Bay meet to discuss safety concerns

Wednesday September 3, 2014

Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) and the City of Thunder Bay announced the two parties have recently met to discuss safety and youth issues.

The announcement was released in an Aug. 28 joint statement.

The joint statement comes after Mayor Keith Hobbs made comments to local media about the lack of participation from NAN in the city’s Crime Prevention Council in the aftermath of the city’s then-fifth homicide involving Aboriginal people last July.

A Wunnumin Lake man was found deceased in the area near Field Street, which is located between Intercity Mall and Walmart. Six people have been arrested and charged with murder in connection with the death.

“It is our goal to build a healthy, safe community and that requires many partners. I am very pleased with the commitment from NAN to work together with us towards that goal,” Hobbs said in the joint statement.

In July, Hobbs called on NAN to start working with the city’s Crime Prevention Council and talk about the growing Aboriginal on Aboriginal crime in Thunder Bay. Hobbs described NAN’s lack of participation on the crime prevention council and unwillingness to discuss the problem of violence as the group not wanting to talk about it and “open up Pandora’s box.”

“They have turned us down. Until the chiefs of the northern communities and NAN show an interest in getting involved, it’s something the City of Thunder Bay is going to have to be on the hook for ourselves,” Hobbs said.

Hobbs also told local media that he was not suggesting all homicides are Aboriginal on Aboriginal, “but if you check with police you’re going to find out most of them are.”

NAN Grand Chief Harvey Yesno responded to Hobbs’ comments in a press release.

“We were very disappointed with the incorrect and inflammatory statements made by Mayor Hobbs with respect to acts of violence within the city, including the insinuation that we are unwilling to address this very serious issue,” Yesno said in the release.

Yesno said that as a strong corporate citizen, NAN is concerned for the safety and security of all residents, regardless of ethnicity.

“Where possible, we have worked with the city and other organizations to address these issues and are proud to support the outstanding work that First Nations police services are doing in cooperation with Thunder Bay police, especially around the illegal and prescription drug trade,” Yesno said.

He then said that NAN would respectfully and appropriately address their concerns to Hobbs and council.

In the joint statement by NAN and the City of Thunder Bay, Yesno stated that the safety and success of the returning students to Thunder Bay was a concern to both entities.

“The safety and success of our young people who will soon arrive in town to attend high school is of paramount concern to us, our First Nations and especially the families of these students,” Yesno said. “I am pleased that the city has reaffirmed its commitment to work with us to create a welcoming environment for them.”

NAN and the City of Thunder Bay look forward to joint participation in upcoming initiatives and will join together to welcome high school students from NAN First Nations to the city at two different events.

The first event is the Working Together for Student Success student orientation at the Victoria Inn, which will be held on Sept. 5 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The second event, which is geared for post-secondary students and open to the public, is Maadaadizi 2014 Post-Secondary Student Orientation, which will be held at Marina Park on Sept. 6 from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Maadaadizi will feature Wab Kinew, Nick Sherman, Sarah Kanutski, and Ron Kanutski.

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