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Letter to the editor: No need to rush to build a multi-purpose facility at this time

A Regional Multicultural Youth Council group say with resources short for vulnerable youth, the city should hold off on an expensive indoor sports complex
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To the editor:

We are appealing to the Mayor and City Councillors to delay the decision to proceed with the multi-purpose sports complex at this time. We support the recommendation by City Manager Norm Gale to push back the vote on the project until after the current COVID-19 climate is over, and we know if the federal and provincial governments will contribute to the facility. We see no urgency to go ahead with the tendering process since private enterprise building another in-door sports facility. This should give the city time to assess our financial situation post the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
Members of the Regional Multicultural Youth Council (RMYC) have experienced first-hand the financial pressure on taxpayers after failing to pay city property rates for our youth centre recently. The city had no money help us, and our executive director had to mortgage his house so that the youth could continue to have a safe space to run our positive peer-to-peer programs. We continue to struggle financially and came before city council last fall seeking money to combat racism that is rampant in our community. As a dependent population, the youth need the City’s support to be part of the solution to the problems we face and reduce the numbers of vulnerable children who end up as dysfunctional adults and a burden to society.
 
We are aware of growing social issues and mental health problems the coronavirus is adding, and the city hardly has enough money to break or stop the cycle of addiction, crime and violence in our community. Committing $33 million for a sports complex with no external sources of funding will take local money away from supporting our most valuable human resource – children and youth. The city received $5.6 million from the federal government to deal with juvenile wellness and crime prevention. The project will be over in a couple of years when the ripple effects of COVID-19 are still being felt, and the city will not have money to help kids and teens in dysfunctional homes, high-risk neighbour-hoods and those constantly exposed to the trauma of addictions, gangs, crime and violence.
 
The $5.6 million the city got is not even supporting groups such as Evergreen, Thunder Bay Boys and Girls Club, Underground Gym, Our Kids Count, the Multicultural Youth Centre, and so forth always short of money to run youth programs. If the city commits taxpayers to build and maintain the multi-sports complex, where will funds to sustain the activities initiated under this mega youth project come from?  Does this mean the continued deterioration of social conditions and escalating policing, social services and health costs by an ever growing population of “street-people” that will negatively impact our quality of life and the image of our city – in spite of a brand new multi-purpose sports facility.
 
We hope that as city council will seriously imagine what this city will look like five to 10 years from now if we do not invest wisely and adequately support children today. We need to form strong alliances and find the resources to address the root causes and social issues affecting fast-growing populations of impoverished families, the racism faced by Indigenous and racialized groups, and seriously fund agencies working to reduce the numbers of marginalized, homeless and ‘undesirables’ on our streets.
 
We also urge the city to fill the vacant position of Child Advocate to advance the cause of children at city hall and work with our youth council to assess the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on vulnerable children and youth in our community. We need to plan on prevention up-stream’ to reduce the numbers of damaged kids who will add to our future population demanding very costly services down the road. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
 
When the matter comes up for a vote on Aug. 24, we urge City Council to support the city manager’s recommendation, and also invest in children! Once we raise healthy kids and support them to be successful adults, they will be in a position to pay for whatever sports complexes they want.
 
Zahraa Alsumadi, Jasper Beaver, Jaydn Bellavance, Jandeya Hopkins, Zoe McGuiness Khani, Zayed Mohammed, Kris Moore, Sykora Wesley, Kamryn Woloschuck, Keirra Woods and Heran Zhao -- RMYC Summer Team
Multicultural Youth Centre
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