March 30, 2017
Mayor David Canfield
Office of the Mayor
1 Main St S
Kenora, ON P9N 3X2
Dear Mayor Canfield,
Thank you for taking the time to meet with us on February 15 in Kenora.
As you know, we met with various members of the local Indigenous community at the Ne-Chee Friendship Centre, visited the Kenora Jail and met with Treaty 3 Grand Chief Francis Kavanaugh. During these visits we heard about challenges faced by Indigenous people related to education, child welfare, policing, corrections, and housing. A common theme was the need for stronger cooperation between government institutions, including the City of Kenora, and Indigenous communities.
One of the main items raised in my earlier meetings with the Indigenous community concerned the issue of the location of the emergency shelter now being run by the Ne-Chee Friendship Centre and currently being temporarily housed in the Northwestern Health Unit. I understand that downtown is the preferred location for this shelter from the perspective of Ne-Chee but that the proposed site required a zoning change that was narrowly rejected in a vote by City Council last year. From our discussion on this matter I understand that this is a complicated and sensitive issue but it is clear that this is a source of friction between the City and Indigenous community members.
During our discussions in on this matter I referred to the OHRC’s guide entitled: “In The Zone: Housing, Human Rights and Municipal Planning”, which offers an overview of the human rights responsibilities of municipalities in housing. It offers information about the various legislated tools municipalities have, and provides “best practice” examples of how municipal planners, councillors, Housing Service Managers, District Social Service Boards and others can overcome neighbourhood opposition based on stereotypes and promote housing that is free from discrimination. We would be willing to provide additional training on this matter to your city council and staff if you are interested.
I am sure you appreciate the importance of reconciliation with Indigenous communities for the future of your City and the region. To this end, I have seen promising regional efforts at reconciliation. I encourage you to continue the efforts you have made in this direction and to seek out further proactive steps. We would be pleased to offer any assistance in this regard should you see any role for the OHRC.
Renu Mandhane, B.A., J.D., LL.M.
Ontario Human Rights Commission
cc: Grand Chief Francis Kavanaugh, Grand Council Treaty 3
Hon. Chris Ballard, Minister of Housing and Minister Responsible for the Poverty Reduction Strategy
Hon. David Zimmer, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation
Patti Fairfield, Executive Director, Ne-Chee Friendship Centre