WHO conference wraps up

With pipers, presentations, and tears, organizers brought the 11th International and 5th National Conference on Safe Communities to a close here late Thursday afternoon.
Delegates from 33 countries, along with more than 100 volunteers and local residents, watched the closing ceremonies at the Ice for Kids arena.
Lindsay Cawston and Jennifer Shoemaker kicked it off with a presentation about the youth pre-conference that was held Monday at the Couchiching Bingo Palace.
This was the first time youth have been included in the WHO conference, and both Cawston and Shoemaker urged organizers to make young delegates a regular part of the annual event.
Paul Kells, founder of national Safe Communities Foundation, agreed. “We need to engage the youth,” he stressed.
As a first step, Kells announced the Safe Communities Foundation next year would appoint a 17- or 18 year-old to the national board of directors for a two-year term.
“It will be a person from one of our safe communities who will serve in a volunteer capacity,” he explained.
Kells also announced next year’s national safe communities conference will be in Lambton, Ont.
Later in the ceremony, Fort Frances Mayor Glenn Witherspoon and Rainy River Valley Safety Coalition chair Doug Anderson passed the “Safe Communities” conference flag to the delegation from Hong Kong, which will host the next international conference in March, 2003.
Fort Frances native Gordon MacKintosh, currently Attorney General and Justice minister of Manitoba, gushed with pride as he said Rainy River District was a model of how to make communities safer.
“The key to the solution is a community-driven approach,” he said. “This isn’t about a government program, one-size-fits-all imposed from the top down.”
Anderson said making communities safer doesn’t require seeking help from outside of the area.
He said that when his parents first moved to the area, they needed money for food so his mother got a job sewing sheets at a local department store.
“By the end of the day, she earned a pair of sheets so she worked all night and made a dress out of them and sold the dress for 25 cents,” Anderson told the crowd.
He said she gave the quarter to his father to buy food.
“He said, ‘Mum I’ve lost the quarter.’ But he searched and eventually found it in the cuff of his pants,” Anderson continued, suppressing tears.
“Us in this movement have to look in the cuff of our pants for funds. You shall find it if you look deep in your pockets,” he stressed.
By finding funds and leadership locally, Anderson said the safety movement becomes a community movement.
“Community safety takes hold when the community takes ownership of it,” he remarked.
Native dancers, the WHO choir, the Rainy Lake Highlanders, and local Sea Cadets and Atikokan Air Cadets also took part in the closing ceremonies.

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