Manitoba

'There needs to be healing': Inner-city gathering looks for solutions, hope

Hundreds of people gathered at William Whyte School in Winnipeg Wednesday night to talk about the violence that's been plaguing the inner city and discuss possible solutions to the problem.

Hundreds come together at William Whyte School to take a stand against violence

Elsie Cormier was one of hundreds who attended a community meeting at William Whyte School Wednesday night about the recent rash of violence Winnipeg has experienced. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

Three nights ago, Elsie Cormier said someone broke into her niece's home with a machete.

She was OK, but Cormier said the incident is just another example of how the violence in Winnipeg's inner city is getting worse.

Cormier was one of hundreds who gathered at William Whyte School on Wednesday night, at a community meeting organized by the provincial NDP.

It was a chance for people from across the city to talk about the problem, and start to find solutions.

Cormier has lived in the North End for 12 years. Although she loves the community, she says the violence has deeply affected her.

"I've been mugged twice in broad daylight," she said.

"The first time it was a Sunday at seven in the morning. I left the ATM, I just pulled out $20, and two blocks later I got robbed by two girls. They broke my arm in six places," she said.

"Second time, [they] put me in the hospital. I had stitches to my face, I had staples in my head. I looked like an eggplant."

Cormier said the community needs to reclaim its strength.

"People are fearful," she said.

"You don't want to be in somebody else's business. But we need to get into each other's business, in order to … get a grip on what's going on in the community. There's no other way."

Cormier said hearing from others at Wednesday's meeting gave her hope.

"It renews my own strength in myself … to help people with addictions. Because I come from that life myself."

'We need support for our men'

Jonathan Meikle, who is originally from Norway House Cree Nation, just celebrated the two-year mark since turning his life around after being involved in crime.

Jonathan Miekle said men like him need the community's help to put a life of crime behind them. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

He spoke up at the meeting about the need for more therapeutic supports for the men who are acting violently. 

"Community being there to help me, was when I was able to get to where I'm at today," Meikle said.

He said a focus needs to be on rehabilitating and treating the root causes of men's violence.

"There needs to be healing," he said.

"When men have toxic behaviours, we're so used to warehousing them," he said, pointing to the high rate of Indigenous boys and men who are incarcerated.

"We need to look at stronger reintegration programs. So supporting people who have been identified with these toxic behaviours that are contributing to violence," he said.

"It's going from, 'Let's stick these people with toxic behaviours in a toxic environment,' to 'Let's help these people and allow them to heal."

Chance Dupuis said it's important for leaders to hear the voices of the people in the community. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

'Community above all'

Chance Dupuis, a Cree two-spirit wellness co-ordinator with Central Neighbourhoods association, spoke up at the meeting about the need for those making the decisions to listen to those on the ground.

"Community above all is so important," Dupuis said.

"We're missing a lot of those voices in conversations with politicians and the police, and I think that we really need to start valuing those voices more."

Dupuis said the solution is in looking at systemic poverty, racism and food insecurity in the inner cities.

"We need to start addressing the bigger problem."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Marina von Stackelberg is a CBC journalist based in Winnipeg. She previously worked for CBC in Halifax and Sudbury. Connect with her @CBCMarina or marina.von.stackelberg@cbc.ca

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