To the editor:
I have spent 28 years growing, loving and defending our city. This Thursday (March 14, 2019) is the first time I can honestly say I have been ashamed and mortified of our city and the infrastructure we have put in place to ensure that it remains a clean safe community. Currently, I am working as an educator within the McKellar ward. This area of town is profoundly affected by the addiction crisis that is plaguing our city. If you dare to roam around the downtown hub, it will become evident the type of dysfunction that is happening here.
Whilst taking our 12 preschoolers for a walk downtown to go see the dinosaur at the museum, we expected to encounter some less than graceful activities. Children are beautifully naive to the chaos that occurs at the intersection of Brodie and Victoria. As we passed by this area relatively unscathed my co-worker and myself allowed ourselves to breathe a sigh of relief. As we rounded the corner of Donald Street the Thunder Bay Museum was in our sights and you could feel the children hovering out of their rain boots as they anticipated the magnificent dinosaur. To put this in perspective my children are two and a half to four years of age. They are full of organic wonder, curiosity and, determination which is delightfully unique to this age grouping. It was barely possible to keep them grounded as they entered “the dinosaurs house”. After a wonderful afternoon of experimenting and exploring all the sights and sounds of the museum, it was time to head back. The stairs to the museum are not the most accessible so, with our 12 exhausted bodies in tow, we decided to take the ramp to avoid any unforeseen risks. As we rounded the corner, behind one of the pillars laid a mountain of debris that posed health risks to the public. We quickly redirected the children away from this area and in doing so one of them found something that they deemed unsafe. “This is sharp” were the devastating words that keep ringing in my head as I type this message. One of our curious little bodies found a used needle along the ramp and had picked it up pricking himself in the finger. Before judgement is passed on the reaction time of the educators, I want you to look at the pictures and get an idea of the MOUNDS of uncontained trash that was laying around. Then, bend over and touch your toes. Accidents happen very quickly.
The part of this story that is the most disturbing is that we were not on the sidewalk or in a back lane. We were not in a wooded area or a park where supervision might be more difficult. We were on the ramp and, at the front door of a government-funded building where the main attraction is young children. We were in a “safe” location that is promoted by our city. How can our city allow this destruction of property to happen and still expect people to go out and discover all that we have to offer? Admission to the museum is free for children which would be an appealing factor to most. However, if we had known the disgusting condition the exterior this building was in and the health threat it posed, we would have never brought our children there. It is appalling to know that no matter what avenue you took to get to the museum (walk, bike, public transit, drive) the real threat laid right there on the property itself in plain sight, in the middle of the day.
When doing my due diligence and reporting it to the proper authorities to prevent further harm, no one seemed to think this was an issue. “The good thing is disease isn’t commonly spread that way” were the words I heard over the phone from a trusted professional. My heart sank. That is your first reaction? I thought to myself. Why are we allowing safe injection sites all around the city if the professionals we have entrusted to clean them up don’t foresee danger and urgency in this issue. That is why I am reaching out to you and pleading that we ensure children designated areas in our city are a priority. I realize this is an issue all around our community and not allocated to one area however, it is unnerving to know that even designated safe places in our city are being overtaken by addiction. It is hard to take pride in a city that doesn’t show pride in itself.