Provincial cabinet minister Greg Rickford is willing to support local initiatives, when it comes to improving community safety.

Downtown merchants in Kenora said last week their safety concerns after a series of fall break-ins hadn't really gone away, and they remained worried for their staff and customers. In Friday's interview, the minister noted he had been involved in discussions connected with justice reform and changes to the legal system, which should also help to alleviate issues for the homeless and those on the street in Kenora.

"I've been working with community stakeholders from the Kenora District Services Board and Ministry of Attorney General officials here in Toronto to make sure we that have a comprehensive plan to deal with all aspects of this, including a Kenora Jail action plan," the minister said Friday.

The pending closure of Lila's Block less housing. A new continuum of care facility is being planned, along with a justice centre and new social housing units, but the completion of these projects is still a long way off.

"We've been working through this with a variety of different ministries to not just address one aspect of this, but to deal with all of them," the minister noted.

A new service hub has opened to offer emergency shelter, along with the Fellowship Centre on Water Street, but these are meant to be very basic and temporary options.

In a rare appearance before Dryden city council last week, the director of education for the Keewatin-Patricia District School Board appealed for support, in order to address issues related to drugs and student safety at Dryden High School and in the community.

Director of Education Sean Monteith says he has met with Mayor Greg Wilson and Chief of Police Doug Paulson on the issue, and laid out his concerns to city council last week.

Rickford said Friday he thought the issues were contained to the school and the Ministry of Education, but added he was willing to sit down with community stakeholders, in order to better understand concerns, as well as options. His offer related to both the safety at the high school in Dryden, as well as in downtown Kenora.

For more information:

Drug concerns in Dryden, DHS

Merchants still worried downtown

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