City of Thunder Bay Children and Youth Advocate
Report to City Council – Dec. 18, 2017
The Thunder Bay Children Charter and the Children and Youth Advocate were established by City Council in 2004 to ensure that the beliefs and values enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of children were maintained at the municipal level in cooperation with other orders of government (See Appendix A).
The role of the Children and Youth Advocate was established to primarily advise City Council about children’s issues in the city, and as such it has no budget and functional authority. Councilor Virdiramo fulfilled the role of Child Advocate from its inception in 2004 until 2014 when councilor Pullia took over the role.
While verbal reports and updates were provided since 2014, the escalation of events dealing with children and especially youth issues in the city in the last year required a more comprehensive report and recommendations to City Council.
Evaluation and Assessment
Fulfilling the role of the City’s Child Advocate has been a demanding but rewarding experience with extensive interaction occurring with three major organizations like the Child Care Task force, the Healthy Kids Community Challenge (HKCC) and the Regional Multicultural Youth Council (RMYC) (see Appendix B) during 2015-2017. Recent tragedies and issues involving Indigenous youth, extended the level of engagement with all major children and youth organizations as well as a multitude of events and meetings as outlined in Appendix C, especially as they relate to at-risk areas and groups in the city.
This intense level of engagement has produced a better understanding of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and risks being confronted by our city in regards to children and youth. The key ones are identified below and supporting evidence is provided where possible.
- A renewed effort and focus by all children and youth organizations in the city as well as Provincial and Federal government on key issues related to children and youth (ex. Youth Hubs proposal by the Province of Ontario Ministry of Health (youthhubs.ca) and application being led by the Thunder Bay Children Centre as well as an application by the City of Thunder Bay and various stakeholders to the Federal government for a 5-year funding to deal with related issues).
- A renewed level of collaboration with Indigenous organizations and political representative as a result of the City’s response to the Indigenous Youth Inquest and the Truth and Reconciliation recommendations. Examples are the Friendship Agreement with Caribou Lake FN; Audit of waterways by a safety committee comprised of community stakeholders and Indigenous representation; the gifting by the City of the former Grandview Home for the Aged to the Mattawa FN Educational Council for a residence that would include a holistic approach for their high school students attending school in Thunder Bay, and many more.
- A heightened awareness and willingness by all children and youth organizations in the city to work together for the benefits of children and youth. This and the areas of weakness and opportunities are the driving force for the request to bring back the Children Charter Coalition.
- Many gaps in reaching the at-risk groups of children and youth still exist especially in the neighborhood areas like Limbrick, the Blutcher/Windsor/Picton and other (gap analysis recent completed by the HKCC and the report can be provided if requested at healthykidstbay.com).
- Inability by some organizations like the Underground Gym and RMYC to access program funding through the regular process as a result of their organizational structure that does not fit the conventional regulatory and accountability process.
- Growing impact of social determinants of health, mental illness, homelessness and poverty in children and youth and limited opportunities by the conventional efforts to reach these groups at risk.
- The at-risk areas are now seeing an infiltration of gangs with resulting addiction and other dependency problems that make it more difficult for conventional approaches to work.
- Protective services are now becoming more proactively engaged with children/youth to bridge the gap of trust and relationship building.
- The extensive review and analysis of the many studies done over the years (especially the Early Development Instrument (EDI) and Social Risk Index Data to determine levels of vulnerability in children by the Communities Together for Children (ctctbay.org), and the new emerging trends in successful neighborhood approaches like the Evergreen United Neighborhood in the Simpson/Ogden St. area (www.evergreenunited.ca) , are now allowing a deeper understanding and insight in collaborative solutions.
- The high level engagement with a wide number of children and youth organizations by the City Child and Youth Advocate, has established a high level of trust and commitment to a more collaborative approach in the community of Thunder Bay and the desire to bring back the Children Charter Coalition.
The Child Advocate has been an active participant and community champion to the Healthy Kids Community Challenge (HKCC) and has raised the issue with the group and discussed the need to bring back the Coalition to fill the gaps that currently exist as the HKCC role does not deal with the social determinants of health and other at-risk issues.
As most of the previous participants are still at the table and to avoid duplication, the Coalition would only meet quarterly and its role would be expanded to include issues that the HKCC is not mandated to cover.
The Children’s Coalition would include all agencies and organizations that work with children and youth in the city.
A resolution has been provided for City Council consideration for the Committee of the Whole meeting of December 18, 2017. This report should be considered as an addendum to that resolution as it provides the context, analysis, and supporting documentation to the recommendation being made.
Bring back the Children Charter Coalition that used to be under the stewardship of the Thunder Bay District Health Unit but has not been operational since its last report in 2010. It is recommended that the coalition now be under the Leadership of the City of Thunder Bay through the Child Advocate and in collaboration with other community organizations dealing with children and youth, and city departments as needed like the Crime Prevention Council, the Anti-Racism Committee, the Recreation and Youth department, the City Clerk’s office, etc.
Appendix A: Thunder Bay Children’s Charter
Appendix B: City Children & Youth Advocate Engagement with the RMYC
Appendix C: Child Advocate – list of events attended and activity from April 21, 2017 to Dec. 10, 2017
April 21 – Attended “Youth Embracing Diversity in Education” student conference at Victoria Inn. The conference objectives were to help students to have a better understanding of equity issues. Students learned to make a difference by becoming ambassadors for equity in their schools, embracing the value of diversity and inclusion, and working towards creating and improving safe and care school communities.
May 4 – Attend Safe Bullying Zone at Kingsway High School
May 8 – Healthy Kids Community Challenge Steering Committee meeting and media release about healthy eating
May 9 – City of Thunder Bay Drug Strategy. Talked with the new Deputy Chief of Police about what is happening with Indigenous Youth and going for a ride-along with an officer for a while shift.
Wednesday May 10 – Attended the Thunder Bay Police Youth Corps. Brought greetings on behalf of Mayor and Council and asked about their program and number of Indigenous youth currently enrolled and who attended in the past
Thursday May 11– 6 pm attended vigil on the banks of the Chapples Park waterways for young lady who was found dead there…
Friday May 12 – Attend the Children’s Centre Foundation for tour and meeting with Chair of Foundation, CEO and Coordinator of Centre
Tuesday May 16 – Lunch meeting at KC with working group team for missing Indigenous youth. Made welcoming remarks as the Child/Youth Advocate
Wednesday May 24 – Healthy Kids Community Challenge meeting
Friday May 26 – Attend Dinner for celebrating Indigenous Youth success in music. Invited by James Wilkinson and as the Child Advocate, I in turn got an invitation for Dr. Cynthia Wesley, Chair of Truth & Reconciliation to also attend with her husband
Monday May 29 – Meeting with James Wilkinson regarding his funding application prospects for the youth project
Tuesday May 30 – Meeting with Chief Dinah from North Caribou Lake FN, her councilor and Maryellen Thomas regarding Indigenous deaths and issues in Thunder Bay and gain insight from their perspective as well as opportunities to work together in finding solutions
Wednesday May 31 – attend my 2nd Bear Clan Patrol of the waterways along the Intercity area
Thursday June 1 – Bring greetings and words of empowerment at Inspiring Youth Conference held at St. Ignatius High School
Thursday June 1 – Community Prayer Walk by North Caribou FN from City Hall to Police Station, to commemorate the tragic loss of two Indigenous Youth
Friday June 2 – Meeting at City Hall with Community services staff regarding funding application review for James Wilkinson (Master Facilitator – the Bridging Principles) and his project dealing with youth
Monday June 5 – Radio message recording at Magic 99 about children safety around elementary schools at end of school year
Tuesday and Wednesday June 6-7, 2017 – attend the IndigenousData.ca forum in Ottawa on behalf of the Mayor who was not able to attend
Friday June 9 – Inter-generational Event at Blue Sky Healing Centre that brought together youth and Elders for an opportunity to share life experiences and for better understanding of our life transitions.
Saturday June 10 – Pow-wow for youth centre fund-raising at the Windsor-Picton area. Spent 4 hours there also meeting with the volunteers (Community Action Committee members) and the RMYC group to review their report on Youth at-risk.
Thursday June 15 – Mattawa Learning Centre 2017 Graduation Class.
Thursday June 15 – Reclaiming Community, Agents of Change. Had about 20 people attend this community-driven safe discussion about the issues of Indigenous youth and recent deaths, along with incidents of racism and violence against women and children.
Wednesday June 17 – Healthy Kids Community Challenge meeting to review progress to-date and Windsor-Picton area Community Action Group report. Also reviewed and had a healthy discussion on bringing back the Children Charter Coalition. There was agreement there that the Health Unit would distribute the last report of 2010, and the Children’s Charter to the group for an update in preparation of bringing back the coalition to work in close collaboration with the HKCC. However, to avoid duplication, the leadership of the Coalition would be under the City through its Child Advocate and meet only quarterly.
Oct. 28 – Halloween Treats distribution to FN kids from Limbrick with Polices Services and Firefighters
Nov. 10 – Meet with Children Centre steering committee regarding Youth Hubs application to provincial government
Nov. 13 – Meeting with James Wilkinson to follow-up with his application for youth funding projects
Nov. 14 – Healthy Kids Community Challenge meeting to get an update on the various youth initiatives including community gardens and Windsor/Blutcher area project
Nov. 15 – Meeting with Lee-Ann Chevrette on crime prevention and Youth Hub initiative with the provincial government on the need to collaborate for synergies
Nov. 15 – Round Table discussion on Racism at the CLE put together by MP Don Rusnak
Nov. 30 – Bring greetings to the White Ribbon event on violence against women to a group of high school boys
Dec. 8 – Attend FWFN Youth Career Fair and do interview with Ed Collins (Mgr of Ec. Dev.) on creating job opportunities for youth in the Thunder Bay region through collaboration with multi-agencies and stakeholder