THUNDER BAY – Thunder Bay’s city council discussed the municipality’s response to deep social challenges of homelessness and intimate partner violence on Monday, declaring the latter an epidemic.
Council also voted to cut a number of outdoor neighbourhood skating rinks and reaffirmed its approval for a planned skate park at the former site of the Dease Pool in a meeting that lasted slightly over four hours.
City declares intimate partner violence epidemic
Thunder Bay’s city council has voted unanimously to declare intimate partner violence an epidemic, responding to sobering statistics presented by local women’s groups.
Advocates said the move has particular urgency in Thunder Bay, where rates of intimate partner violence are typically around twice the Ontario average and 1.5 times the national average.
They also suggested the city could take further steps like calling on the province to make the same declaration and increase funding for shelters and other services.
Concerns over coming winter as council reviews homelessness strategy
Several city councillors expressed serious concerns over a spike in the number of people living without shelter in Thunder Bay, warning there could be deaths on the city’s streets if further supports are not put in place.
A report from city staff outlined a three-fold increase in the city’s homeless population over the summer.
It also revealed the city’s encampment strategy had met with greater challenges this year, connecting only 13 people with housing, compared with over 50 in 2022. Staff and advocates attributed that to a lack of available transitional and affordable housing units.
Council cuts 9 outdoor rinks
Council voted to cut nine of the city’s 39 outdoor skating rinks, mostly ponds that had fallen short of usership targets.
Most councillors called the move a necessary response to declining use and the city’s financial challenges, while a minority argued the cuts would produce minimal savings and disproportionately hurt low-income residents.
Noise concerns linger for Dease skate park
City council has given approval in principle for a plan to build a skate park at the former Dease Pool site, across from Dease Park, but the project — pegged roughly at just over $1 million — is still without dedicated funding or a timeline for construction.
Some councillors continued to raise noise concerns over the park, worrying about the impact on nearby residences. Several said plans for a three-metre-high sound-blocking fence and a positive assessment by an acoustical engineer had failed to convincingly address those worries.
Consultations with residents on the draft plan for the park, meant for beginner to intermediate skaters, as well as BMX bikes and scooters, indicated strong support overall, but ongoing concerns over noise and vandalism from some residents.
Expansions on the way for archives, Water Street terminal
Council approved a $760,000 architectural services contract to plan for expansions to two facilities, the city archives and the Water Street transit terminal.
The archives expansion, estimated to cost roughly $3.5 million, accounts for around two-thirds of that amount.
A report did not estimate the total cost of Water Street terminal work, which includes refurbishment and an addition.
The projects are planned for the 2024 and 2025 construction seasons.