THUNDER BAY — There are some success stories, but much work remains to be done if Thunder Bay is to help Canada achieve the 17 sustainable development goals established by the United Nations.
That's clear from a report released by a working group that reviewed progress at the community level, and believes "local action is critical" to achieving these objectives.
A dozen representatives from the local non-profit sector, local government, and academia volunteered their expertise to support the assessment of conditions in Thunder Bay with reference to the UN's sustainable development goals for 2030.
The sustainable development goals represent a commitment by all UN member-states to eradicate poverty in all its forms, end discrimination and exclusion, and reduce inequalities and vulnerabilities that leave people behind.
Specific objectives cover a broad range of challenges such as providing clean water for everyone, taking action on climate change, and ensuring sustainable communities.
One of the participants in the Thunder Bay review was Bonnie Krysowaty, a researcher and program manager at the Lakehead Social Planning Council.
She said the working group spent the last couple of years gathering data "to kind of tell a story about where we are around these goals."
Krysowaty said some of the findings came as no surprise.
"The number of people experiencing homelessness has increased exorbitantly over the years. It's up 63 per cent between 2016 and 2018," she said. "Things like opioid-related deaths, hospital visits, ER visits of course, we know in Thunder Bay have gone up increasingly."
She said the group hopes people take the time to read the report because it's a useful resource.
"There's lots of examples of what's happening in Thunder Bay collectively to help address a lot of the issues, and also some of the things that are really working in Thunder Bay, because not everything gets a failing grade," Krysowaty said.
Each section of the report highlights a different sustainable development goal and evaluates the performance at the local level based on key indicators.
It examines challenges and progress toward each goal, provides examples of efforts and successes, and proposes next steps.
Krysowaty believes community engagement is key to making more progress, because "when people understand what's happening, and they understand the data, it's a lot easier to develop solutions that everyone can be involved in. And that's the goal of the report."
The working group is recommending that the City of Thunder Bay further incorporate the UN's sustainable development goals into its work, particularly in its strategic plan.
Among other measures, it's also calling for data collection incorporating various dimensions of equity, diversion and inclusion related to age, sex, race and disability status.
The group wants more funding and resource support, as well, for agencies and organizations that are working on sustainability-related initiatives in the region.