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This article was published 22/10/2018 (662 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Bear Clan patrol found six grams of methamphetamine Friday night, in a garden in the North End.
"That kind of find is becoming commonplace," Bear Clan co-founder James Favel told the CBC.
Leading walks four nights a week through Winnipeg’s inner city and North End neighbourhoods, the Bear Clan patrol is more than a bunch of "community watch" volunteers: it’s a youth mentorship program, public safety body, and educational institution, all at the same time.
This week, the Bear Clan opened up its first storefront on Selkirk Avenue, with plans to make residential spaces (with laundry facilities), spaces for workshops and resumé writing, and a safe and warm place for those who need it.
"We need a permanent place," Favel told the Free Press at the announcement Monday. "It’s time for us to have a more permanent presence in the community."
This investment in community – all done by volunteers – is incredible.
The Bear Clan is not alone. There are hundreds of individuals and organizations doing oft-unsung and unpaid community-building work in Winnipeg’s inner city and North End. A short – and incomplete – list would include: Drag the Red, Got Bannock?, Meet Me at the Bell Tower, Urban Circle Training Centre, Inner City Youth Alive, and Aboriginal Youth Opportunities.
Winnipeg’s inner city and North End has the lion’s share of the city’s poverty, but arguably one of the largest percentages of citizens dedicated to building their community.
I spent Monday afternoon at a North End community clean up, hosted by the William Whyte Residents Association, as about 30 volunteers picked up garbage and dangerous objects (such as needles).
"We do this twice a year," said Darrell Warren, association president, adding such events are becoming increasingly more difficult as provincial government cuts have led to the group losing its only paid co-ordinator position. "We lost the one person who could dedicate time to this."
Many organizations in Winnipeg are suffering due to government cuts.
Recently, the Neighbourhoods Alive! program and the North End Community Renewal Corporation have been drastically reduced, while organizations such as Aboriginal Vision for the North End are cut to the bare minimum.
North End businesses Neechi Commons and Connie’s Corner have closed. Organizations such as the Thunderbird House and the Indian and Métis Friendship Centre are barely operating; some are closed (North End Family Centre).
According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ 2018 State of the Inner City report, such Winnipeg organizations spend as much time justifying their work as the work itself. Yet, volunteers continue to dedicate countless hours in a fight to build their community.
So one would think it would be easy for mayoral candidates in this civic election to come up with a vision for Winnipeg’s inner city and North End.
How about joining with them? Funding them? Walking with them?
I’m not talking about putting on a Bear Clan jacket: I’m talking about addressing the issues they’re addressing – for free.
However, ideas from mayoral candidates have been few and far between.
Some have been ludicrous. Ed Ackerman proposed a $400-million "reverse toll bridge" to pay motorists to visit and spend money in the North End. Others have out-of-touch perspectives of Indigenous peoples in the city. Umar Hayat wants to claw back the city’s financial commitment to the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s Inuit Art Centre.
Some are ambitious. Don Woodstock has proposed a hiring quota for Indigenous employees at city hall that matches provincial population percentages. (Some of Woodstock’s other antics tend to obscure ideas like this however.)
In the end, this slate of mayoral candidates have offered almost nothing new – or even interesting for Winnipeg’s inner city or North End.
A vision for Indigenous peoples and those neighbourhoods are starkly absent in Jenny Motkaluk’s campaign. Her ideas have basically included public safety and "engaging with stakeholder groups" – whatever that means. She also skipped the mayoral forum on poverty in the city.
Incumbent mayor Brian Bowman’s vision is business as usual: continuing his promise to expand and continue the city’s Indigenous Accord, Indigenous Advisory Circle, and providing cultural competency training for city employees. There have been a few promises that would directly impact the inner city and North End, including investing in youth programs and supporting the crumbling infrastructure in some community centres.
The North End is mired in overwhelming struggles due to poverty – and this will directly impact the next mayor and city council.
The meth problem, for example, will make the issue of poverty seem easy to deal with. The lack of fresh, healthy food will exponentially create health challenges. The lack of affordable housing means more people on the streets.
Some of the most pressing challenges in Winnipeg seem to be lost on this slate of mayoral candidates, as they seem content to allow the inner city and North End to be saved by volunteers.
Remarkable people, who will suffer from some unremarkable ideas.
Niigaan Sinclair is Anishinaabe and is a columnist at the Winnipeg Free Press.
Updated on Tuesday, October 23, 2018 at 10:23 AM CDT: fixes typo
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