Local activists host panel of grandmothers at city hall to protest police and security powers, propose alternatives

June 18, 2021 – For immediate release 

The city must immediately take measures to reduce funding for policing and stop using private security to harass people in need. So says local watchdog organization Not One More Death who, on Tuesday June 22nd will be staging an event at City Hall with Indigenous and non-Indigenous local grandmothers who will be offering alternatives. 

The event, which begins at 7pm and will feature a panel of grandmothers drinking tea and sharing thoughts about how to create grassroots community safety and care. It will include local two-spirit elder Ma-Nee Chacaby, celebrated filmmaker Michelle DeRosier and award-winning journalist Jody Porter. The event will take place over one hour with an opportunity for the media and the public to ask questions.

“Every year Thunder Bay spends more and more money on policing and private security, but the problems these institutions are supposed to solve get worse.” Explains Kate Rookes, a spokesperson for N1MD. “With the police now requesting another $50m for a new headquarters it’s time to call the question. We know from countless studies that, to really solve the problems police are asked to respond to in our community we have to address the upstream issues of colonialism, trauma, poverty, addiction and lack of care. It’s the elders in our community whose wisdom should guide us, not politicians and police.”

The action responds specifically to a number of recent scandals where private security employed by the city of Thunder Bay and private businesses have been indifferent or hostile to people in need in the city’s downtown cores, especially near city hall which is also a major junction for the city’s buses.

“More security, more cameras, more surveillance, more harassment: none of these are answers to anything except preserving the sense of comfort for wealthy people.” Rookes continues. “We have to begin by recognizing that people in need are people who our society has failed.” S/he also notes that “we want to be sure to point the finger here at City Hall and the powers-that-be in the city, not the particular security guards or city employees who carry out their orders. Change needs to come from the top.”

The group is also preparing a list of recommendations for the City to implement the Grandmothers’ roundtable as a permanent decision-making body on matters related to community safety. A draft of the recommendations is available for feedback: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1n6BjhCz4GlGqKjHp20qhyYdZzNKXtRGdIa1lBnai5rY/edit?usp=sharing

The idea of bringing together a “think tank” of grandmothers draws on the Anishinaabe traditions which hold elders, including elder women and two-spirit people, in high regard. 

NOT ONE MORE DEATH is a community activist and watchdog group of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people dedicated to blowing the whistle on the ways that systemic racism, poverty and colonialism create the conditions of premature death in Thunder Bay.

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