THUNDER BAY -- Council is giving a Victoriaville youth centre a bridge to remain open, against the will of city administration.
A motion introduced by Coun. Andrew Foulds to grant Youth Centres Thunder Bay $25,000 to remain operational through the end of the year, as well as continuing to have access to city assets and equipment, was unanimously approved by council at Monday night’s meeting.
“It became clear the youth centre is important and serves a vital demographic- marginalized youth,” Foulds said while introducing the amendment.
As the debate wore on many other councillors voiced their support for keeping the group afloat.
Coun. Paul Pugh was one of the strongest proponents of supporting the youth centre.
Pugh argued that while there are other youth centres throughout the city they offer different things for different groups of youth.
“They’re not doing the same thing,” he said.
Pugh also openly doubted that current council had provided enough supports to the city’s youth.
“It’s by no means enough,” he said of the proposal in front of council. “It’s not where we want to end up but it’s what we have in front of us (right now).”
Mayor Keith Hobbs took issue with that stance, citing a laundry list of past youth-focused initiatives council had given the green light during their term.
The centre was established as an 18-month pilot project designed to serve youth from remote First Nations communities attending school in the city.
The city initially contributed more than $120,000 for the program, with the Wasaya Group Inc. contributing rental fees up to April 1 of this year. The organization then became responsible for that cost.
The $25,000 will ensure the centre can continue to run through to the end of December, during which time they will find out the status of other funding applications.
A $5,000 option was also presented, which would have provided a brief reprieve of a couple of months so they could conduct other fundraising.
With the municipal election looming, Coun. Joe Virdiramo said it would be hypocritical for incumbents to make campaign trail claims of championing the city’s youth if they voted against the motion.
It would be “shameful” to not provide the support, he said.
While the report from administration indicated the centre was not primarily attended by students from remote First Nations it became popular for youth from Pope John Paul School, St. Patrick’s High School, Regional Multicultural Youth Centre, and Sea Cadets
Several of those youth, as well as Youth Centres Thunder Bay president Colleen Peters, were present in the gallery during the meeting.
City manager Tim Commisso acknowledged the pilot project was a success but also said the group’s funding model had changed, specifically Youth Centres Thunder Bay becoming responsible for the rental costs.
The group had not provided administration with a balanced budget for next year, which he added was a red flag.
The Youth Services Plan, which had been previously approved by council, had certain criteria for determining funding for groups and a long-term centre.
The Victoriaville site, lacking outdoor green space and indoor size restraints limiting the accommodation of a gymnasium or multi-purpose rooms, is only an interim location.
Only the Boys and Girls Club and the Evergreen United Neighbourhood have been currently designated as satellite program sites.
The Youth Services Task Force, which will be established this fall, will determine the complete set of site criteria.
Youth Centres Thunder Bay will be assisted in applying to the city’s Community, Youth and Culture Funding Program if it is interested in doing so next year.