The City of Thunder Bay, Ont., is working toward solutions to the "deep-rooted practice" of throwing food and racial slurs at indigenous youth in the city, according to testimony on Wednesday at an inquest into the deaths of seven First Nations students.
Jethro Anderson, Paul Panacheese, Curran Strang, Robyn Harper, Reggie Bushie, Kyle Morriseau and Jordan Wabasse died between 2000 and 2011. All of them had travelled to Thunder Bay from remote communities to attend high school.
Several of their classmates have testified at the inquest about having racial slurs hurled at them from passing cars along with eggs, bottles or full take-out cups of pop.
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"It appears to be a deep-rooted practice among some people in Thunder Bay," said Jonathan Rudin, the lawyer for the families of children who died.
"It's nice to have the word respect," Rudin said, referring to the 'Respect' campaign, an anti-racism initiative in Thunder Bay, "but I wonder if there's something more."
The city is developing a system where people who have experienced a racist incident could call the 211 phone line and report it, said Karen Lewis, the manager of corporate strategic services, during her testimony at the inquest.
The incidents will be reported and tracked, she said.
A plan to build a "grand" youth centre is still in the works, according to city manager Norm Gale.
"Hearing these tales of food being thrown, abuse being hurled, racism directed at our youth or adults is simply not okay," Gale said in an interview. "Youth centres can play a pivotal role in helping people be together and to deal with racism.
A 2014 attempt by the city to create a youth centre, in partnership with the Thunder Bay Indian Friendship Centre, failed when the federal government refused to help fund it.
Watch live streaming video from the First Nation student deaths inquest here.
Follow CBC Thunder Bay reporter Jody Porter as she tweets from the inquest.