LIVE BLOG: City of Yellowknife Social Plan
Readers: I’m not nearly as adept at live-blogging as Miss604 or Hummingbird604. As you can see, I missed a number of names, and a number of comments. If you were one of the speakers and I misquoted you or got your name wrong, please leave a comment! If you’ve never commented on a blog before, it’s easy. You will be asked for your e-mail but *only* I will see it. Dive in!
This won’t *quite* be a live blog as wifi is a bit iffy here at Northern United Place.
One of the things I love about Yellowknife is that the eco-system (social and otherwise) is so small and contained that, compared to Vancouver, it’s easy to get involved and become quite informed.
Tonight, we have been invited to a town hall of sorts to answer this question:
What role do you think the City can play to address social issues?
Preliminary issues of concern are:
1. Housing Concerns. It’s not quite as extreme as Vancouver but there definitely is a shortage of affordable housing
(for one thing, permafrost limits the amount of construction) and there is also increasing homelessness (so much for leaving that issue behind in Vancouver)
2. Substance Abuse (ed note: it’s really, really grim. This wasn’t the case when I was a kid. Things have changed in the past 20 years)
Meeting being called to order by Lois Little. Kudos on good turnout.
Points out this is a community conversation, and that this is the first Social Plan being created by the City of Yellowknife. Doing this as a municipality is just starting to catch on – esp. in B.C.
Intent is to develop a plan that defines the City’s role in addressing social issues, but tonight’s discussion is to define the role.
FIRST QUESTION PUT TO THE GROUP:
WHAT COULD THE CITY BE DOING TO DEFINE THE ROLE?
Mark: City could be in greater conversation with GNWT to identify gaps.
Vicky: Work more in partnership, such as the Beely House.
Diane: Need public facilities. Public bathroom facilities (with attendants?) Back alleys are …
Sue: More in plan for Fun activities such as Raven Mad Daze, Cariboo Carnival
Vera (?): Ensure affordable zoning embedded into planning so its not ghettoized.
Chris: More places for men to go besides Salvation Army. No place for men to go when they need shelter or services.
Janice: Create safety net in downtown area where social issues like drinking and drug use are occurring – same place as library, so how can people feel safe?
Mark: could we find models from other countries that are working?
Nancy (me): city could hold regular info sessions for newcomers to acquaint us with social issues, residential school issues, aboriginal history.
Jill: look at causes and effects – social determinants –
_____: points out places already in existence that gives info about the city, gives points of entry. Promote what’s already out there.
Spencer: very little money set aside for social science research in the north. We do a lot of hard sciences, but not much in the social sciences. Also seconds comments re: public washrooms needed.
Sue: Whitehorse has a safe house. In NWT, nobody takes responsibility for it – not city, not GNWT, not federal gov’t.
Ruth: We live in a democracy. City Council gets elected then says first thing they have to do is cut costs.
Maryanne, a social work student (ed note: yay!): all city councillors are caucasion. Need to ensure aboriginals are represented. Policies should not simply be adapted from other provinces.
Mark: Agreed – we have too many southern policies to solve northern problems. We need to address the fact that we’re distinct.
Ben: Washrooms, drop-in centre – these are both legitimate city roles. Other social issues are paid for by property taxes which is not a fair way to pay for social issue initiatives. City should be an advocate to get funding from other governments.
Patricia: reminder that there are sessions available to discuss affordable housing.
Janice: Does not feel safe when she walks downtown.
_____: What do we need to keep the city safe? Maybe we need to look at a municipal police.
_____: We need more recognition of the fact that we have a lot of languages and ESL here – our signs need to reflect that.
Mark: Re: drugs – we need to focus on prevention. We can’t tackle drug trade. We don’t have the resources. Onus on prevention programs, esp universal programs in schools at a young age, so that it holds into teenage years.
________ : Need to take due note that aboriginal population is a mix of dene, inuit, metis, not a homogenous group.
Rebecca: Nothing about domestic violence listed.
Violet: Also nothing listed about children in fostercare.
Jacqueline: esl students consistently complain they can’t meet canadians. They really want to. Could we facilitate this?
Ben: Social determinants need to be listed. We need to decriminalize drugs. (ed note: wow! former city councillor said this!)
Need to address accessibility issues.
Ruth: points out our councillors are not overly paid. Cannot expect them to have a whole new department.
Lois: could use a “social lens” on all decisions.
David Jones: clearly outline what city’s can and does do now. City does not have much capacity for these ideas. Would appreciate a report re: what city can and does do, then increase capacity to do.
Also, not just advocacy, but target an issue an actually do something.
Lois: lots more being done than has been documented.
Chris: we don’t need more foster homes, we need fewer kids taken out of their homes. it’s a broken system to take kids out. We need more stable families, better social services system. What we have doesn’t work.
Statistically kids in foster care are more likely to become criminals.
Tim: Urban Planning creates social conditions.
Sue: it’s under city’s purview is urban planning, Empty houses. GIve tax credits to build away from the lot line. Keep families in an area rather than to areas where they feel “safer”. Have a foot patrol, a presence, so people feel safer.
Mark: Domestic violence – perpetuators are both genders equally. No service, no shelters for men and their children. This is a massive social problem.
(debate on this topic – this is not the forum to debate this).
Janice: re: urban planning. Could city hire an Urban Planner with a social background?
Lois: 1988 a feasibilty study done to consider transfer of HS&S to City of Yellowknife. Municipalities have moved out of tiny box of service delivery. That’s not the only option on the table. They’re about advocacy, providing informaiton, bringing people together, making things happen, as opposed to being the deliverer.
Lynn: Looking back 40 years in the NWT. Being a politician was easier because not so many problems. Problems today not changing. Missing evaluation of services. Shelters kick people out at 7am. We need to evaluate services, or else not improving. We need to work together better. Social workers have too much power. Families need an advocate. Also, language is a problem. It’s too frustrating to try to express yourself in a language that is not yours. Needs programming about parenting. Against the social work system because it does not work. APPLAUSE.
NEXT QUESTION: LEGISLATIVE, FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITIES
What really is the city’s mandate?
Jill: Document reads like it’s someone else’s responsibility. “I work for GNWT, but I’m also a citizen, so it’s my problem.” Would like to see city have its own department of wellness.
Need to start taking ownership.
_________: A teacher on their feet is worth two on their seat. Same applies to policing. Had 3 different negative encounters in one afternoon downtown, and wondered where were the police.
Mark: the funds are slim. Difficult to access money. If we’re not prepared to fund, problems won’t go away.
____________: Recycling –
Janet: civic pride – find ways to foster ownership. Why do people litter? Because they’re not proud of where they live.
Have a gathering place where you could get someone to dig your garden. Keep Yellowknife feeling like a village – Jane Jacobs-y.
Esther: we’ve been talking, and a similar conversation was held 2 years ago. Will something actually happen?
France: it will happen when we insist that it does, when we take ownership.
TIm: hates to keep harping on urban planning. Issues stem from transience. There are reasons not to stay – for some people. People are falling over themselves to move to Whitehorse. How can we design a city where people want to stay?
Mary: Remembers when different group homes have been proposed and complete unwillingness to accept psychiatric patients into their neighbourhood. As long as City allows NIMBY, problems will be ghettoized downtown.
Chris: Who allowed the person on the plane, who released him? Need better medical services.
Mark: every 3 minutes a person takes his life. Our suicide rate is 10 times the national average. A gap in service. Need a visiting psychologists. More services for men.
MLK: do a little, do anything, to help make a difference.
Sue: been waiting 15 years to see arts, social spaces, by the City.
__________? We have 100 languages in Yellowknife. How do we provide services in their own language?
____________: Someone from oversees. Ppl from different cultures get the feeling of not being welcomed. How do we help them feel welcome? Silos here. Many clubs here, but not inclusive. We have to work on sense of belonging.
Elsie: Could we have a YK inter-agency group? This has worked well in Inuvik.
Maryanne: Was appalled by way ppl have language roadblocks – eg., don’t complete gov’t forms correctly, or call help-line, but language barrier. Will hang up if gets answering machine. If city could host more inter-agency meetings, that would be good.
Rebecca: works in not-for-profit sector. spends more time getting funding than doing the work itself. Lots of little grants given to a lot of projects.
__________: There are things here. We need a central person to point to resources.
_________ CIty councillor: one example of city drawing ppl together = city energy plan. City has dedicated resources to get the plan up and running. This social plan can be a living document that keeps moving forward. The energy plan found funding from many sectors, not just tax payers. That’s the role she hopes the city will play in bringing some of these ideas forward.
HOW CAN THE CITY BEST EXERCISE ITS RESPONSIBILITY IN IMPROVING SOCIAL CONDITIONS
Mark: says thank you for the forum. City could adhere to the front page and promote equality.
________: This should not be a one-off, but twice a year or quarterly.
Lois: this is what builds community, which is what is behind the social plan.
Janice: emphasis on leadership. Also, so do we – being willing to pay our taxes, picking up litter. Would like to see City take leadership in moving these ideas forward. Make programs more affordable for kids who don’t have affluent families. We need the City to lead us, move us in that direction.
_________ There have been 3 sessions where youth got to meet, but nothing happened. Discussion is good, but is a bit jaded. Also jaded on collaboration because people get excluded even then. Best collaborative effort was homelessness issue spearheaded by Salvation Army. Everyone had to speak and get along before any money flowed.
Brie: tackling something like social wellbeing gets overwhelming. Tackling something like public bathrooms is a good place to start. It’s about public health, and about dignity. Demonstrates that the City is capable of a social plan.
Alice: Thanked City for openness and transparency of tonight.
Ben: Clarifying – City usually does larger planning process for their initiatives. City needs to do more for this to demonstrate the significance of this. This should get the same significant process in planning.
Lydia: This can’t be compared to General plan, but can be compared to the Energy plan. The funding is available for a community that has a plan. This starts to create the plan which allows the City to approach other governments for funding.
_______________: adds that affordable housing must be a priority. In Greenland, hamlets have education, social services, housing. Committee meets every second week.
Patricia: When we do the Social Plan, will it have mechanisms for implementation and funding? Affordable housing – focus group sessions happening on 12th and 13th of May. Please attend! Three levels of gov’t will be there.
Tim: Hopes there will be resistance to urge to sprawl, and also that there will be mixed neighbourhoods. Urban density should be increased.
Next week all week, drop by Explorer Hotel for Smart Growth discussions re: Yellowknife zoning etc.. Have input!
Ben: hopes a more adequate process will be created for setting priorities, than this. This should not be the place where priorities were set – everyone comes with their own bugbear.
__________: Social Work student. Need to talk about social wellbeing. Start at family and community level. Recognized Arlene.
__________: (introduced his website) Visit www.yellowknifetenantassociation.com
Well, my live-blogging petered out at the end. There were some impressive people there and there was no lack of ideas!
My own included: support for social entrepreneurialism (enterprises with socially beneficial outcomes) and a credit union so funds can stay in the community instead of going to shareholders around the world. Janice told me there was a charter! I’m totally curious to follow up on that! A personal highlight was a brief chat with Sandy Lee with whom I went to school. Apparently a large segment of our cohort have chosen to make Yellowknife their long-term home. Yay, class of ’82!