A community gathering was held at William Whyte School last week to discuss a surge in violence that has struck surrounding communities in the past month.
Concerned members of the public packed into the school’s gymnasium on Nov. 6 to unleash emotional testimonies and calls for help to the politicians who were in the room.
The forum was organized by NDP MLAs Nahanni Fontaine (St. Johns) and Bernadette Smith (Point Douglas), who were accompanied by other dignitaries such as Wab Kinew, leader of the Manitoba NDP, and Winnipeg Police chief Danny Smyth.
"Our job is to listen to you. Our job is to listen to your recommendations. Our job is to ensure that our communities are safe. That is our job. And tonight is for us to listen," Fontaine said in her opening comments.
The politicians stood in silence as the floor opened up to advocates who emerged from the crowd and expressed their concerns, mostly regarding safety, meth use, and violence against women and children.
Nicole Berens lives in Gilbert Park, where she has raised eight children.
"Where I come from there’s a lot of resources out there but they don’t reach out and help us, like really get involved with our lives. We have a resource centre but there’s, like, addicts that don’t get the right treatments and then they just roam the community and do what they want.
"You got parents who try really hard but the resources aren’t there to help them mentally, because in that community we see suicides, we see mothers being hurt, we see all kinds of crazy stuff. And then in the end there’s nobody there to help us emotionally or physically."
The North End has been under a bright spotlight for the heinous crimes that have recently taken place in the community. But Tim Henderson, who lives around the inner-city, said crime has no borders in Winnipeg.
"It’s not so much that it’s just a boundary issue… it’s a social issue and it’s not ethnic-specific," he said. "I would like the community leaders, political leaders, to have a transparent process so that everybody can see what exactly came out of here at this first initial meeting and then what they have decided to take from it and act on."
Henderson said something he’d like to see more of is foot patrols in neighbourhoods, instead of police officers simply driving around.
Although many of the concerns were the same, people in the crowd has different recommendations on how to deal with violence in the community.
Some said it was up to the police service and politicians to solve the problem, while others persisted it was the community’s responsibility.
"They need to include the stakeholders, the people from the communities that are affected," Henderson said. "It needs to be community driven."
Community Journalist - The Times
Sydney Hildebrandt is the community journalist for The Times. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org