Thunder Bay·Audio

MP hopes reconciliation summit will foster discussion, relationships

Thunder Bay-Rainy River MP Don Rusnak hopes his planned Community Relations and Reconciliation Summit helps Thunder Bay move past finger-pointing and into meaningful discussion of — and solutions to — the issues the city faces.

Don Rusnak to host event in Thunder Bay this summer

Thunder Bay-Rainy River MP Don Rusnak has announced plans to host a Community Relations and Reconciliation Summit this summer in Thunder Bay. (Submitted by Don Rusnak)

Thunder Bay-Rainy River MP Don Rusnak hopes his planned Community Relations and Reconciliation Summit helps Thunder Bay move past finger-pointing and into meaningful discussion of — and solutions to — the issues the city faces.

Rusnak announced his plan for the summit at a media event this week. He intends to invite Indigenous leaders, government representatives (federal, provincial, and municipal), community organizations and Thunder Bay police to the series of meetings, which are scheduled to take place this summer.

"It really came out of the justice round table I held last year with service providers, and trying to find solutions for the issues that I knew so well in Thunder Bay with the criminal justice system," Rusnak, a lawyer, said. "It's not just about the justice system, it's everything: it's the health, social welfare system, the economy — we needed everyone at the table, and not just one section of the community."

Planning underway

Rusnak has reached out to a number of potential participants as planning for the summit ramps up; those included representatives of Nishnawbe Aski Nation, Grand Council Treaty #3, Fort William First Nation and other northern communities.

Rusnak said he's also spoken with MPPs Michael Gravelle and Bill Mauro, and his fellow MP Patty Hajdu, as well as Thunder Bay police and the City of Thunder Bay.

"We want to make sure everyone's represented, and we hear all of the issues in the community," Rusnak said.

Solutions sought

He added he wants the conversation about those issues to move past finger-pointing and blame.

"I believe most people see the big picture," Rusnak said. "There are always going to be the naysayers, and people pointing out the negative."

"People pointing fingers and making accusations isn't that helpful. We need to sit down, we need to acknowledge that there are problems, and we need everyone at that table to come up with solutions."

Rusnak hopes the meetings will allow for relationship-building, which he said is key.

"That's what I see as the first meeting, is to start beginning these discussions and starting these relationships," he said. "If people aren't talking, and just coming out with blurbs on social media, or quips or comments in the media, and not actually talking to the other partners that they need to talk to, then no solutions are going to be found."

No firm date has been set for the start of the summit, but Rusnak said it will be this summer.