THUNDER BAY -- The city’s mayor says he’s not going away until Nishnawbe Aski Nation joins the crime prevention council.
“They can call me all the names they want. They can turn this into a racial issue if they want. It’s not. It’s an emergency situation, in my opinion, that they need to be at the table and help solve,” said Mayor Keith Hobbs Thursday morning.
Earlier this week, Hobbs issued a challenge to NAN officials to join the city’s crime prevention council to discuss what the mayor called a growing problem of violent Aboriginal on Aboriginal crime.
This came after police confirmed a body discovered in the Field Street area last Friday was the city’s fifth homicide investigation of the year. Three people have been charged with second-degree murder in connection with the death of the yet-to-be-named victim.
NAN Grand Chief Harvey Yesno responded to the mayor’s comments late Wednesday saying the executive council was disappointed with Hobbs’ “incorrect and inflammatory statements,” including the insinuation they are not willing to address the issue. The statement did not make any accusations of racism against the mayor.
“As a strong corporate citizen NAN is concerned for the safety and security of all residents, regardless of ethnicity,” Yesno said, adding they have worked with the city and other organizations to address these issues and are proud to support the work First Nation police services are doing in cooperation with the Thunder Bay Police Service, particularly with the illegal and prescription drug trade.
It further states NAN will address its concerns with Mayor and council, but doesn’t elaborate on how or exactly when it intends to do that.
In response to NAN’s statement, the mayor said the bottom line is they are not at the table for the crime prevention council, which is an important initiative with more than 30 organizations from mental health to addictions working together.
“God bless NAN, they said they’ve been working with the police and we’re seeing that,” said Hobbs, adding that the crime prevention council is also doing great work with programs like SOS and the alcohol management program.
“There’s a gaping hole at the that table and it’s NAN,” he said.
Hobbs said he’s been receiving emails and phone calls supporting his challenge and has received support from Aboriginal community members.
“This is not about race. This is about helping people,” he said.
The mayor added the city has been there for First Nation communities when they’ve been hit by forest fires and floods.
“It’s time to pay back. It’s time to get on board with us and help solve these problems that are plaguing our community,” he said.