I see that another group home proposal has come forward to council for approval - this time in Ward 5. As usual, the same old trumped up excuses are being raised as a smokescreen for keeping people "not like us" out of the neighbourhood. I say trumped up, because none of the excuses being put forward has the benefit of being based on fact, but only on emotion, and that emotion is fear.
This proposal is for a home for children. A maximum of five, between the ages of 9 and 12. So, of course, one of the reasons being put forward is concerns about parking, even though the proposed location has sufficient parking for staff, and I'm pretty sure that children that age aren't driving, let alone owning their own vehicles. Another is the eternal concern over property values, even though there is no evidence that having a group home in a neighbourhood has any effect.
People seem to forget that, if it were an ordinary sale of a house to a private individual, neighbours have no control over these things anyway. Your neighbours may be loud, have parties, keep more vehicles than you would, or play music into the night that is not too your liking. Good luck at stopping them from moving in.
But to me the really sad part about this is that every single member of council elected in the last election spouted concerns about reducing crime in the city. And we have several years of advice, and are trying to move forward with our dealing with rising crime rates through initiatives such as the Hub and Core, where we know that helping children on the right path is the long-term solution. Here is an opportunity to do just that, but that doesn't seem to come up in the discussions.
This home would offer children in unstable situations some stability - the ability to continue to go to school, be fed, and have a safe place to sleep. For most of us, we take those advantages for granted; for a sad proportion of the citizens of Prince Albert, it isn't the case. And people would rather hide behind their fears of what may or may not happen, than do the right thing.
Ironically, this is something that council could show some leadership on, because it is actually within their control, unlike fake goals like safe injection sites, which are outside council control. I hate to break it to members of council, but your job is to do what will make the city better, not just worry about getting re-elected in four years. And leadership is doing the right thing, not just parroting what your more vocal and fearful constituents tell you to say. As Andrea said this week, if the NDP had put their concerns about re-election ahead of doing the right thing back in 1960, we wouldn't have medicare. They lost the next election, but set the example for the rest of Canada that we now take for granted and brag about. That was leadership.
I attended the rally at City Hall on Thursday evening, to demonstrate my support for diversity within our community after the shocking killings in Quebec City last week. Another irony - at the same time as residents were showing their support for Muslims, a closed door meeting was being held with residents of Ward 5, including city staff, presumably so that residents could air their concerns about diversity anonymously, too cowardly to demonstrate publicly the courage of their convictions. So much for transparency in discussions, yet another council commitment conveniently forgotten.
Residents have promised to pack the next council meeting, a proven method for intimidating council into doing what a few dozen shouting individuals want. I hope to be pleasantly surprised by council standing up for themselves, but don't expect more than one or two to resist. Much easier to go along with the crowd.
As long as our leadership says one thing, but does another, don't expect this city to move forward. And mourn yet another lost opportunity to make life better for children who already have enough issues to deal with.
"Never, never be afraid to do what is right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society's punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way." Martin Luther King, Jr.