Deep Dive: Thunder Bay

Indigenous youth facing social and economic exclusion

Deep barriers exist to social and economic inclusion for young Indigenous people living in Thunder Bay due to the legacy of colonialism and a continuing toxic context of racism. Racism and discrimination in Thunder Bay – both systemic and interpersonal – is a widely acknowledged reality. According to the results of the 2015 Citizen Satisfaction Survey issued by the City of Thunder Bay, 81% of residents agree that racism is a serious problem in their city. Numbers from Statistics Canada suggest that Thunder Bay has one of the highest rates of metropolitan hate crime, and that most of the police-reported hate incidents in Thunder Bay were against Indigenous people, accounting for 29% of all anti-Indigenous hate crimes across Canada in 2015.

We learned from our partners in Thunder Bay that these dim statistics, combined with a noxious anti-Indigenous context, contribute to a perception of young Indigenous citizens as being problems or perpetrators of violence rather than as valuable community members. Indigenous young people living in Thunder Bay themselves say racism often impedes their ability to engage in civic life and move about the city safely and freely.

Inspirit’s commitment

Despite being located at the intersection of systems that routinely fail them, young Indigenous community organizers and their allies are very often leading the call for justice and change in Thunder Bay. Inspirit is committed to working with these change leaders and other community actors to:

  1. Support a broad community movement to address anti-Indigenous racism: Supporting dialogue and collaborations between organizations and community members that result in actions that address anti-Indigenous racism and its effects on Indigenous youth and citizens.
  2. Champion the leadership and civic participation of Indigenous youth: Supporting Indigenous change leaders and their allies from Thunder Bay and Fort William First Nation to become more effective, connected and influential in their work.
  3. Build asset-based narratives that highlight the strengths and contributions of Indigenous youth. The essential approaches of media and arts – storytelling, bearing witness, representation, contemplation, provocation and motivation – are particularly effective in building a more inclusive society. We will support Indigenous led media initiatives that promote understanding of the realities, contributions, and potential of Indigenous young people among Thunder Bay citizens.
  4. Apply impact investing strategies to support sustainable change and capital projects: Where possible Inspirit will apply its impact investing strategies in Thunder Bay, to achieve societal conditions that we believe contribute to building a more inclusive and pluralist society. Our four investment themes include increasing livelihoods, supporting climate change solutions, building community infrastructure, and increasing access to arts, culture and services.

A vision of change

By 2020, we intend to effect the following impacts:

  • Young Indigenous people involved in funded initiatives will have an increased sense of belonging to the local community and will be meaningfully engaged in community initiatives that impact them.
  • Local Indigenous change leaders will be more effective, connected, and influential in their practice.
  • Diverse groups will be working together to improve the wellbeing of young Indigenous people.
  • Societal conditions for greater inclusion will be enhanced through the shifting of capital.

A Collaborative Approach

Inspirit is inviting other donors, funders and social sector organizations to join us in supporting young people in Thunder Bay. It is obvious that this is not a goal that can be accomplished by any one organization or strategy. We are therefore working in collaboration with a number of organizations and welcome additional support through funding or services. If you would like to explore collaboration ideas, please contact our Manager of Stakeholder Engagement and Communications, Rudayna Bahubeshi.