Nishnawbe Aski Nation Deputy Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler said Monday his office has been taking a lot of calls from parents about the safety of Aboriginal children going to school in Thunder Bay.
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Nishnawbe Aski Nation Deputy Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler says the First Nations organization is holding a community safety forum Tuesday night as a way to reassure the community at large.
Fiddler on Monday said first and foremost the two-hour gathering is being staged to allow police to give the public an update on a pair of high-profile cases involving Aboriginals.
The first, an alleged violent Dec. 27 sexual assault the victim deemed racially motivated, sparked outrage in the First Nations community. The second, which allegedly involved a police officer stranding an Aboriginal male outside city limits, has led to an internal investigation and is being taken very seriously, said Police Chief J.P. Levesque, who will be in attendance.
“I think it’s an opportunity for the community come together and talk about how we can make this community safer for all of us,” Fiddler said.
Levesque thinks it's a good idea.
"I congratulate Deputy Grand Chief Fiddler for organizing this. It certainly shows leadership. It's something that's timely. As far as our perspective from policing, we need to start building bridges. We need to redevelop some trusts within the Aboriginal community and I think tonight, I hope tonight will be a good start in that regard."
“It’s also in response to the many calls that we’ve received from parents up north who send their kids to school in Thunder Bay and the anxiety they have for the safety of their children and what we can do to make things safer for them while they’re hear.”
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First up will be the police, though there will also be a public forum that gives members of the public an opportunity to voice their concerns and offer up suggestions to solve the safety issue.
“We’d like to formulate a plan on how we can move forward and how we can keep this (discussion) ongoing,” said Fiddler, admitting the relationship between First Nations and Thunder Bay Police have been somewhat strained by several recent incidents.
Police came under fire in the Aboriginal community last summer after an email depicted a murder suspect as the “Fresh Breath Killer.”
Fiddler, who wants to rebuild the trust between police and his people, said it’s an all-inclusive event open to everyone.
“We hope that a lot of people will show up,” he said.
The forum will take place starting at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Thunder Bay Community Auditorium. It’s scheduled to last for two hours, with another at the end for one-on-one discussions.