THUNDER BAY -- Mayor Keith Hobbs says he and Nishnawbe Aski Nation leadership have met, their first priority being to ensure students arriving in town next week from remote communities stay safe.
Hobbs, who called out NAN leadership earlier this summer, imploring them to join the city’s crime prevention council in the wake of a recent spate of Aboriginal on Aboriginal homicides and violent crime, said progress was made on that front too.
However he said no commitment has yet been made on NAN’s part.
“We had a very frank, open discussion,” Hobbs said Thursday afternoon.
“The major item was safety in the city and keeping students safe that are coming down from northern communities for school. That was a hot topic; and just what’s going on in the city crime-wise and working together to find solutions to make this city safer for everyone.”
Aboriginal officials are still awaiting an inquest into the death of seven First Nations teenagers, a process that has been halted by the jury-roll process and a lack of Native representation.
As a result, it’s been pushed back until at least 2015, if and when the issue at hand is resolved.
In a joint statement released by NAN and the City of Thunder Bay, Grand Chief Harvey Yesno said it’s both sides goal to build a welcoming community for all.
“The safety and success of our young people who will soon arrive in town to attend high school is of paramount concern to us, our First Nations and especially the families of these students, and I am pleased that the city has reaffirmed its commitment to work with us to create a welcoming environment for them,” Yesno said.
The two sides say they will take part in a number of upcoming initiatives and will welcome incoming students from remote communities together next week at an orientation session at the Victoria Inn on Sept. 5 and Marina Park the following day.
Hobbs said the tragic deaths have to stop.
“We’ve been fortunate the last couple of years that it hasn’t happened,” the mayor said. “So we’re doing meet-and-greets at the school. I’m frequently at Dennis Franklin Cromarty School talking to youth and we’re going to continue with that initiative.”
Hobbs added both NAN and the city are going to direct the teens to resources that are available, places where they can go to get help and services.
He’s hopeful it’s just the beginning.
“We’re going have future meetings, which is good to see. We talked about the crime convention council too and being a part of that. Although they didn’t commit totally to it, they’re going to discuss it.”