Open Letter to Premier Furey
Category: News Releases
June 24, 2021
The Honourable Andrew Furey
The Office of the Premier
Confederation Building, East Block
P.O. Box 8700
St. John’s, NL A1B 4J6
Dear Premier Furey:
The Labrador North Chamber of Commerce (LNCC) offers its full support in response to the Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay’s statement entitled “Town Will No Longer Tolerate Government In-Action.” The LNCC is calling upon the Provincial and Federal government to provide adequate resources to offer culturally appropriate social supports and essential infrastructure to address the current mental illness, addictions, housing and homelessness and public safety emergency in Central Labrador.
Since 2019, the LNCC has been advocating for its members and the business community on this issue, has been in frequent communication with the Provincial Government and has offered involvement and assistance. The Town’s strong stance on this issue has sparked difficult but necessary conversations and further highlights the need for community supports. Unfortunately, the current service delivery model is ineffective and the situation throughout the community has worsened. We are calling for collaboration and immediate targeted aid for regional organizations with expertise that are educated, experienced and closely linked to the systems and individuals impacted so they may invest wisely and effectively toward an impactful community-based service delivery model.
Mental illness and addiction affect one in five people across Canada and indirectly affects all Canadians at some time, significantly impacting the social and economic fabric of communities. Lack of supports for mental illnesses, addictions and trauma are pervasive within the transient and homeless population in Happy Valley-Goose Bay which can lead to behaviours affecting public safety. As the Indigenous population is also disproportionately represented within the region’s homeless population, it is imperative to understand the unique challenges and needs that exist in our region. There are needs for customized supports that reflect culture and community in Happy Valley-Goose Bay and in the home communities of transient people. Sensitive not institutional support is important.
For many years LNCC members have shared concerns, and we experienced our own challenges with property damage and Visitor Information Centre interference. The frustration surrounding costs for residential and commercial property repairs and the fear of living and working within your own community is real and warranted. The Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay and businesses are shouldering costs that have stretched budgets and fall far outside their mandates. The negative business impacts in our communities relate to safety, tourism, business access, and increased security and repair costs, which can be traced back to the complexity of the situation and the substantial cost of ineffective social supports. This not only negatively impacts regional economic growth, business development, and the attraction of skilled professionals, but also the overall population health of Central Labrador.
There is a critical and immediate need for targeted infrastructure and social supports throughout Labrador to specifically address barriers faced by those without safe and affordable housing or mental health and addictions supports. Without this targeted approach, we will not see change. Without continued conversations and education, including with the people who are transient, we will not see understanding. We can appreciate the sensitivities and complexities of this issue – words we continue to hear from our government leaders – but this justification is no longer sufficient or appropriate.
The LNCC recommends that the Provincial Government:
- Encourage open and continuous dialogue by spearheading educational and cultural sensitivity opportunities for residents, businesses, community groups and within our educational system so individuals gain a true understanding of associated barriers for those without safe and affordable housing and who are experiencing mental health, addictions and trauma;
- Work closely with the federal government to ensure improvements are made to existing programs for vulnerable populations that allows accessibility by regional partners to ensure the understanding of regional differences lead to stronger outcomes;
- Move forward with plans to establish a service centre in Happy Valley-Goose Bay similar to The Gathering Place in St. John’s to improve service delivery and supports so individuals feel protected, safe and supported; and
- Directly allocate funds and/or aid to regional organizations that are educated, experienced and closely linked to the systems and individuals impacted (examples include the Mokami Status of Women Council, the Housing and Homelessness Coalition, the Salvation Army, Labrador-Grenfell Health, the Nunatsiavut Government, the NL Housing and Homelessness Network, the Canadian Mental Health Association, and the Mental Health Commission of Canada).
The LNCC remains interested and is eager to offer its support to the Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, and the provincial and federal governments. Our Board of Directors and members are hopeful for a collaborative approach with regional partners moving forward. I appreciate your consideration on this difficult situation and look forward to discussions toward an effective community-based service delivery model.
Chief Executive Officer
Ms. Yvonne Jones, Member of Parliament for Labrador
Hon. Lisa Dempster, Minister Responsible for Labrador Affairs
Mr. Perry Trimper, MHA for Lake Melville
His Worship Wally Andersen, Mayor of Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay
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