Safety and well-being plan in the works

Merna Emara
Staff Writer

A community safety and well-being plan for the Rainy River District is currently in development.

The Rainy River District Social Services Administration Board (RRDSSAB) is partnering with 18 regional services to develop a plan that will target all municipalities within the Rainy River District.

Dan McCormick, chief administrative officer at the RRDSSAB, said the goal of this plan is to identify key local risk areas to focus on in order to have safe communities with less crime and social disorder.

“The plan is mandated through the Solicitor General’s office to the municipalities,” McCormick said. “Each municipality is responsible for creating a community safety and wellness plan. However, because of our geography and the size of our municipalities, creating a plan of that nature could be quite expensive.”

Because RRDSSAB represents 10 municipalities, McCormick said, the Solicitor General’s office asked them to develop a plan that encompasses all municipalities. McCormick said the board agreed to working on a global plan for the district.

McCormick said they will be looking at the needs of the communities, services for seniors, and drug and alcohol addiction.

“But then we’re looking at having appendices to represent anything of specific nature for each community,” McCormick said. “For example, Atikokan, Fort Frances, Emo, Rainy River and Alberton would all have tabs. If there was something specific to that municipality, it’ll be listed in the tab. We’ve also invited the First Nations to participate with us.”

McCormick said the plan is supposed to be presented to the Ministry of the Solicitor General by July 1. However, with most service managers asking for extensions because of COVID-19, McCormick added, they are hoping to extend the deadline until at least the end of the year.

“This will give us the opportunity to actually meet with the citizens in each area,” McCormick said. “The plan requires extensive community consultation and right now with COVID, other than doing online surveys or paper surveys, you can’t really host a gathering to have an open dialogue with the citizens in the area.”

Despite inconveniences created by the pandemic, McCormick said there will be a survey by RRDSSAB that citizens can complete. A cross sectoral steering committee of interested parties has also been created to help with the plan.

The steering committee involves representatives from the Town of Fort Frances, Riverside Healthcare, the OPP, the Northwestern Health Unit, community mental health counselling services, the United Native Friendship Centre and the Canadian Mental Health Association, just to name a few.

The project is being funded through the municipalities. McCormick said they were originally considering hiring a consultant to develop plans, but due to COVID, they found that they have the capacity with their staff to work on the plan with just the feedback from the committee members.

Given that the population of the Rainy River District is about 20,000, McCormick said all municipalities are extremely linked, making it easier to document what leads to wellness and well-being across the district.

According to a press release by RRDSSAB, public consultations will take place between Feb. 16 and March 16. These surveys can be completed by visiting the link on the RRDSSAB’s website at Paper copies will also be available for drop off and pickup at each municipal office across the district.