Kenora’s new Senior Leadership Team at City Hall says tackling addiction and social issues in the area will be one of their first priorities in 2023, and they plan to do it in partnership with the community.

During the team’s first official Council meeting at City Hall on December 20, returning Councillor Graham Chaze took a few moments to clear the air and address the ongoing situation seen in Kenora’s downtown core.

“The City of Kenora, like many private business owners and residents, struggle with the issues of addictions and homelessness, and needles on their property,” said Chaze.

Chaze then referenced a late-November story from Q104 and KenoraOnline, when resident and dog-walker Bailey Hall warned the community about garbage, discarded clothing and items associated with drug use in Central Park’s new outdoor rink area.

The dog she was with had to be taken to the vet for an emergency visit, but thankfully recovered. Later, through a request for further information, the City of Kenora said the area was the responsibility of the contractor to clean up.

The following day, President of the Central Community Club, Tim Gosnell, immediately began locking the player benches to try to avoid this kind of thing from happening again, but stressed that it’s the city that should be responsible for clean-up – not construction crews.

“It really gave me some chance to reflect,” adds Chaze. “I want the public to know, as a councillor, we take this issue very seriously. We’re going to be working very hard over the next four years, sooner rather than later, to try to address these issues and bring stakeholders together, and encourage members of the public to get involved and be involved in this.”

“It’s everyone’s problem,” he adds. “It’s not as simple as passing the buck to the city, a contractor or an addict. We need to find creative solutions to this problem. It’s not unique to Kenora, but it’s a glaring problem. We can all do better in trying to bring people together to solve these problems. It’s a big priority of mine and it’s a big priority of this group to solve some of these together.”

The Kenora OPP say they are currently working on the city’s new Community Safety and Well-Being plan, which would likely aim to improve safety in Kenora’s downtown core, as well as to help eliminate stigma with drug use and support improved cultural responsiveness.

The development of a revamped Community Safety and Well-Being plan was sparked by a survey conducted by the Kenora Police Services Board in February of 2021, which showed that over 70 per cent of respondents did not feel safe walking alone at night in the Kenora area.

Dryden’s Community Safety and Well-Being Plan aims to help provide a network of coordinated care for those in need. It was revealed to the public in 2021 after five years of consultations with community stakeholders, and includes input and advice from 60 regional organizations.

“I echo Councillor Chaze’s words,” adds Councillor and former OPP officer, Bob Bernie.

“I know our way forward is through our Community Safety and Well-Being plan. I really look forward to developing it. I agree, it is everyone’s issue and everyone has to have a seat at the table and be part of a solution. This is our way forward,” he adds.

In an interview with Q104 and KenoraOnline earlier this week, Mayor Andrew Poirier agreed that social issues are one of Kenora’s top priorities for 2023, as well as new housing developments and working alongside our First Nation partners in the region.