Mayor Daniel Reynard and Members of Council
One Main Street South
Kenora, ON P9N 3X2
Dear Mayor Reynard and Members of Council:
Re. Proposed anti-loitering by-law
The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) is writing to express its concern about the anti-loitering by-law that is currently being considered by Kenora City Council. The OHRC urges Kenora City Council to reject this by-law, which will likely have a disproportionate impact on vulnerable and homeless people in Kenora, the large majority of whom are Indigenous peoples. Moreover, the by-law will not solve the homelessness crisis or other social issues facing Kenora.
As the OHRC recognized in its Report and recommendations on homelessness in Kenora, Kenora is facing a homelessness crisis that will require support from all levels of government. As the report states, the issues raised by this crisis “cannot and will not be solved by pushing vulnerable people out of sight.”
The OHRC’s Report on homelessness in Kenora was released following the then-Chief Commissioner’s September 2019 visit to Kenora to meet with local leaders to discuss issues relating to social conditions and services in the area. In that report, the OHRC recognized the existence of “an immediate homelessness and drug addiction crisis which has a disproportionate impact on First Nations people who live in the city. It’s a crisis where loss of life is foreseeable.”
As recent statements and reports from community members make clear, that crisis has only become more acute with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In its report, the OHRC called on local leaders to develop solutions that put the needs of Kenora’s vulnerable and marginalized population at the centre of decision-making. The same approach continues to be required today.
Local leaders must work with Indigenous leadership and service providers to “ensure that the needs of service users are accurately identified and appropriately met.”
In addition, “higher levels of government must also take steps to provide immediate financial and technical support to address the homelessness emergency, and to address the systemic barriers that exist that are preventing the needs of vulnerable and marginalized people in Kenora from being met.”
An anti-loitering by-law cannot solve a homelessness crisis. What is required is real systemic change, such as increased housing and social supports developed in consultation with local service providers, Indigenous organizations and First Nations and financially assisted by higher levels of government.
As set out in its previous report, the OHRC urges Kenora City Council to respond to the current crisis in a way that recognizes that “all people are welcome in Kenora, and that all people are entitled to basic dignity and respect.”
We therefore join Grand Council Treaty #3 (GCT3), Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN), and other voices from the community in urging Kenora City Council to reject this proposed by-law.
cc: Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler, Nishnawbe Aski Nation
Grand Chief Francis Kavanaugh, Grand Council Treaty #3