Mental health and addiction crisis

Awhile back SaultOnline ran an opinion piece titled: Leaked document confirms opioid crisis not a priority for city.  The ‘leaked document’ was a power point presentation developed by city staff for a meeting with our MPP, Ross Romano.  The meeting was specifically intended to review and discuss municipal infrastructure applications and the presentation was structured accordingly.  Notwithstanding the focus and specific intention of the meeting, we did take the opportunity to raise and discuss community concerns and the first item on that list was the opioid epidemic.

The opinion piece got me thinking about discussions and meetings that I have had with local advocacy groups SOYA (Saving Our Young Adults), AMHA (Addiction and Mental Health Advocates) and CHAAT (Citizens Helping Addicts and Alcoholics get Treatment). These conversations and meetings were largely about what the city has done or is doing to advocate for more mental health and addiction support in our community.  I want to recognize and thank each of these groups, all of which are comprised of volunteers in our community who demonstrate on a daily basis the best of us. The care that these volunteers demonstrate for each other, those struggling, and our community is a tremendous example of compassion and leadership. I am grateful for it.

The last time I spoke with Donna DeSimone from AMHA she made an important point: it isn’t enough to do something, people must know you are doing it. People must know what the City is doing to address the addiction and mental health crisis in our community, so that people that are struggling and affected know that it is a priority, that they are important and that their City cares.  Donna’s point made me think of a questionnaire that the City Councillors and I received from CHAAT asking, among other things, what we were doing to advocate for and improve access to treatment in our community.

In the context of the advocacy of SOYA, AMHA and CHAAT and the advice I have received from representatives of those groups, we created an outline of some of our efforts.  This list is not exhaustive and it does not represent work the City has supported or encouraged through the District of Sault Ste. Marie Social Service Administration Board (DSSAB). The DSSAB has done a lot of valuable work and I commend Councillor Dufour and the Board along with CAO Nadeau and the staff team for their impressive efforts.

Emails, meetings and telephone calls are surely missed but this outline should give people a good sense of the work and advocacy the City has undertaken.  More than that, I hope it gives people the sense that we know many people are struggling with substance use.  We know that many people are having a difficult time accessing care and treatment.  We know that as a community we are losing people, and that families and friends are losing loved ones.

I assure our community that City Council will continue to advocate for more treatment and care capacity within our community and that we will continue to work with front line social service and care providers to do what we can to get people the care and support that they deserve.

Black Lives Matter Proclamation

Copy of Copy of _In order to create a free and just society, each of us have a responsibility to not only stand against racism but to actively encourage equality through the way we treat one another and by chall

WHEREAS George Floyd was killed by a police officer on May 25th, 2020, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in the presence of three additional police officers;

AND WHEREAS since George Floyd’s death there have been protests and demonstrations across the United States and in Canada in support of Black Lives Matter and standing against police brutality, anti-Black racism, and the killing of Black people;

AND WHEREAS racism and anti-Black racism is not limited to the United States. Racism and anti-Black racism exists here in Canada and our own community of Sault Ste. Marie;

AND WHEREAS racism is not limited to explicitly hateful, discriminatory or prejudiced comments and actions. Racism can exist in institutional and systemic policies and practices;

AND WHEREAS all people are created equal and all people have the right to be treated equally in accord with our prescriptive law and the principles of natural justice;

AND WHEREAS in order to create a free and just society, each of us have a responsibility to not only stand against racism but to actively encourage equality through the way we treat one another and by challenging the systems and practices that permit or support racism;

NOW THEREFORE I, Christian Provenzano, as Mayor of the City of Sault Ste. Marie do hereby explicitly acknowledge that racism and anti-Black racism exists in Sault Ste. Marie and that racism hurts the people it is directed towards and it weakens our larger community. I hereby call on and ask all of the residents of our community to examine our own attitudes, perspectives and conduct to determine where and how we can improve and contribute to the fight against racism and anti-Black racism so that all members of our community feel welcome, respected, included and safe and so that we can build a stronger community that is a model to others.

After a lot of work guided by ambition for and careful consideration of Sault Ste. Marie’s future, the City has developed an exciting project to create a community space in the heart of the downtown core.

Over the past few years, I have been working hard with staff on the planning of the downtown plaza, and I want to recognize their efforts. The report presented to City Council containing conceptual designs and details about potential features is the result of our collective efforts.

At Monday evening’s meeting, City Council decided to move forward with the plaza project and acquire a piece of property to facilitate our plans. Construction is expected to begin in the spring.

The plaza will be a four season community space that connects the waterfront and the downtown area. It will serve as a gathering space that increases activity in the downtown, which will drive investment and assessment growth. The cruise ship visitors provide an example of potential opportunity. With the addition of a BeaverTails location near the Roberta Bondar Pavilion and the creation of a vendors market, we have seen more visitors spending time in the waterfront area. A plaza that links the waterfront to the downtown area would help spread the positive impact to another area of our community.

The report to Council outlines the entertaining and engaging features the plaza could incorporate to ensure activity throughout the year; from a water feature to a play feature to a stage, lighting and large viewing screen, to public art, to trees and benches to a skating rink.

The adage, ‘If you build it, they will come’, applies to this project. There is clearly an appetite for increased activity in the downtown area. The recent success of the Community Art Project, Jurassic Park, Poutine Feast and the Downtown Street Parties demonstrates this fact, and the plaza will serve as a welcoming space for people to gather and socialize on a more regular basis. For example, the Street Parties organized by the Downtown Association have proven to be popular and well-attended, but it is not feasible to regularly close Queen Street. A space such as a plaza provides a location where these kinds of events can be held more frequently without disrupting a large stretch of road.

As outlined in my inaugural address at the outset of this Council term: we need to move from maintaining the community we have, to building the community we want. The plaza project is a significant step towards fulfilling this vision. It is an investment in our community, structured in a responsible way (within the current levy). The end result will be an attractive community space in the heart of the downtown core that will be enjoyed for years to come.

There have been a lot of positive developments in the downtown area from new patios at several businesses, to street furniture including pianos, to murals and unveiling celebrations.

FutureSSM’s most recent quarterly update was presented to City Council at Monday evening’s meeting and it included details on several projects that resulted in the developments mentioned above. These types of projects represent quality of life investments that are needed to ensure our youth, our young professionals and tradespeople see a life for themselves in our community, and it is great to see them moving forward.

The Community Art Project provides a great example. It included the GFL Memorial Gardens Mural Project, Traffic Wrap Project and Sault College Grad Show, street furniture, public pianos and the Downtown Mural Project. Since it began in January, the Community Art Project has engaged more than 300 youth; providing mentorship opportunities and helping them develop skills related to arts and culture. A quote included in FutureSSM’s report illustrates the impact these initiatives are having.

The City is committed to the downtown area, and to seeing it thrive. Simply put, if the City continues to help develop a downtown where people want to spend time through initiatives such as the Community Art Project, commercial investment will follow. We are starting to see that.

The recent progress would not be possible without the support of our community. The Downtown Mural Project is a great example. The project was led by FutureSSM and the Downtown Association and supported by several local businesses/organizations (OutSpoken Brewing, LopLops, J.Caroline’s, Fringe North International Theatre Festival and the Arts Council of Algoma), sponsors (Equipment World Sault Ste Marie, Color Your World/Cloverdale Paint, Kiwanis Club of Lakeshore, Batchewana First Nation, Village Media, Michaels Stores, Holiday Inn Express Sault Ste Marie, Days Inn & Suites and Bay Front Quality Inn and Suites) and artists (Jerry Rugg, Darren Emond, Alexander Bacon, Patrick Hunter, Rihkee Strapp and Mishiikenh Kwe).

The teamwork of these organizations, businesses and individuals resulted in a fun project that added five new murals to the downtown area. While progress is being made, it would be premature to conclude that our work is done, but it is important to recognize that by working together we are making a difference and if we keep at it we will continue to do so.

For a remarkable 13th consecutive year, cadets from 310 Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps and 155 Royal Canadian Air Cadet Corps (including highland dancers from MacLeod Highland Dance Studio) finished first place at the Area Band and Drill Competition. It takes incredible amount of hard work and dedication to prepare for and succeed at these competitions, and their efforts deserve recognition.

The cadet program is an asset to our community. One of the primary goals is fostering good citizenship and leadership skills in a supportive atmosphere that helps to develop our community’s future leaders. This is accomplished through the hard work of the dedicated volunteers who support the cadet program and helped developed this atmosphere.

I have been fortunate to participate in many events involving the cadets, and I am always impressed with the maturity, confidence and energy they continue to exude. I look forward to seeing what they will accomplish in the future.

This blog allows my office to provide perspectives in a more detailed way than Facebook and Twitter afford. In particular, it is a way for us to communicate our thoughts on important issueshighlight the great work of our community members or talk about where we are heading.

The blog is managed by staff in my office and not all of the posts are written by myself. Readers will note blog posts marked, “CP” were written by me.

On demand transit service

Keep up with City Council

The City has a responsibility to support the movement of people throughout Sault Ste. Marie, whether it be to and from work, appointments, essential services or recreational options. Transit is one of the most important services the City provides, and staff is working hard to provide a service that meets the needs of users.

City Council received an update on Transit Services at Monday night’s meeting in the form of a report about an on demand transit one-year pilot. As a means of making the best use of our resources and better serving users, the City is seeking proposals to shift to an on demand model starting with a pilot for Sunday evenings this summer (an RFP will be issued in the near term).

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Fantastic local volunteers working for the betterment of our community

A flag raising for Autism Awareness Month is held annually at the Civic Centre and each year you will see the photos appear in the local media and on social media, but I want to recognize the people behind the scenes who worked hard to organize the flag raising and who work even harder to support people with Autism Spectrum Disorder and their families.

The flag raising is organized by Autism Ontario’s Sault Ste. Marie Chapter, a tremendous group that helps spread awareness about ASD, facilitates social opportunities for individuals with ASD and their families and provides support to these individuals and their families. For example, they organize workshops, parent caregiver support group meetings and at a Baby Bumps and Beyond event this weekend they have arranged for a sensory room.

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Staying focused on Sault Ste. Marie’s future

Keep up with City Council

The withdrawal of NOHFC support for FutureSSM is a disappointing decision from the Provincial government, but it will not keep the project from moving forward and it should not overshadow the great work that is going on.

FutureSSM is a community development project that was developed through extensive consultation with the community.

We have come to accept and recognize that economic growth and development does not happen in isolation, rather it happens when you create a place people want to live in, when opportunity is more fairly shared and accessible and when there are vibrant spaces, places and experiences people can enjoy and share with one another. Simply put, we have to do more than just maintain the community we have, we need to build the community we want to become.

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Recognizing our fantastic Special Olympians and the people who support them

Sault Ste. Marie has a long history with the Special Olympics and our community is very proud of the many Saultites who have been involved over the years – whether as athletes, coaches, organizers or supporters.

With the 2019 Ontario Special Olympics Winter Games kicking off tonight, I want to send a message to all of the people involved with the games.

To all of the athletes: I wish you the very best. It takes an incredible amount of training to get ready to compete in the games. Your participation is a testament to your hard work and your positive attitudes.

To all of the supporters, organizers and coaches: thank you for helping the games and the athletes. Your guidance, assistance and support has made and will continue to make a positive impact on the lives of the athletes.

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