Greg Rickford says the Ontario government is doing all it can to support community partners and Council members who are trying to ‘clean up the streets’ of downtown Kenora.

In late December, members of the public joined Mayor Andrew Poirier and City Councillors at City Hall as staff hosted a Special Council meeting to address safety concerns downtown after at least five businesses and their employees were the victims of mischief or crime throughout the month.

In an interview with the Q Morning Show, Rickford, who serves as Kenora – Rainy River’s MPP and represents the province as its Minister of Northern Development and Minister of Indigenous Affairs, began by recognizing the efforts of Mayor Andrew Poirier and fellow Councillors thus far.

“The first thing is kudos to the new mayor and council for the refreshed approach to this,” he said. “I think it’s high time for a community-level discussion on this. Full credit to the new mayor and council who were clearly elected on this, and other issues, but this was the big one.”

Rickford then went on to detail a number of funding announcements and projects underway in the community that he says will all help to address the situation – including the major expansion at the Kenora Jail.

“For provincial support, we’ve been hard at work on this. Whether its baser funding for addictions, specialists to support the Kenora Justice Centre, funding for custody workers to support effective reintegration into the community, and other items with the Kenora Jail that we think will help offenders get a good start once they’re released.”

The Minister also stressed the importance of new housing projects with the Kenora District Services Board and Ontario’s Aboriginal Housing Services, which will include 20 new units on Matheson Street South and 30 new units on Ninth Street North.

“On a number of fronts, we’ve been there,” adds Rickford. “We’re going to continue to be there, all in an effort to take back our streets and make things safe for everyone.

Following the meeting, the Kenora OPP’s Detachment Commander, Jeff Duggan, committed to increasing foot patrols in the community. He noted the OPP is also looking to establish a downtown office and bike patrols will be returning to the area once the snow clears.

City Councillors have also committed to hiring a new Community Safety and Well-Being Coordinator to assist officers downtown. As it stands, they would have a budget of roughly $75,000 – once hired.

The coordinator position is also expected to continue developing the city’s revamped Safety and Well-Being Plan to help provide a long-term strategy for community partners and service providers.

The development of a new Community Safety and Well-Being plan was sparked by a survey conducted by the Kenora Police Services Board in February of 2021, which showed that over 70 per cent of respondents did not feel safe walking alone at night in the Kenora area.

Recent incidents in downtown Kenora have included an employee at the Red Apple being the victim of an assault on December 10. A 23-year-old was arrested afterwards.

The owner of Island Girl, Michelle Livingston, was later assaulted on December 23, with a 29-year-old taken into custody.

Elsewhere, the Spirit Oak Tree Company warned of harassment at their storefront on December 27.

Windows were also reportedly smashed at the Bannister Centre, windows were smashed at Market Square in November, and the deck of Prelude Travel was damaged.

Shortly into the new year – there was a reported armed robbery at a local gas station and a suspect remains at large.

Anyone with any information related to crime in Kenora is asked to contact the OPP at 1-888-310-1122, anonymously at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS) or online at www.crimestoppers.ca.