February 14, 2023 Message to the Membership
Posted on February 14, 2023 in Message to the Membership
Happy Valentine’s Day!
It’s fitting that the topic I’m choosing falls on this day; this day of love.
And while one’s thoughts likely first turn to love in the sense of romance – after all, that’s what the marketing world has turned this into – but there’s also other types of love. Just ask any Grade 2 teacher, who, if they are fortunate enough to work in a school that still allows such things, will see their students show their love for each other through a Valentine’s Day card exchange. Pretty sure romance has nothing to do with that.
But then there’s also the compassion and empathy side of the spectrum. Although I don’t consider myself a religious person, I’ve been to church often enough to know that love from a higher power is a common refrain. Which in turn, I think, is supposed to be not only reciprocated, but also spread to our fellow man/woman/child etc. Again, pretty sure this is not intended to be romantic.
So it was in this latter vein, I suppose, that I phoned my friend Saskatoon Tribal Chief Mark Arcand the other day. I called him to offer my support and appreciation for the hard work he’s doing on behalf of our community.
It’s likely no surprise, but for those that don’t know, Chief Arcand has been the face of the homeless situation Saskatoon is experiencing. It’s that way because, as the leader of the Saskatoon Tribal Council, Chief Arcand is fulfilling the Tribal Council’s wishes of trying to address the needs of Saskatoon’s homeless population.
The STC recognized that many – but certainly not all – of the residents at the Emergency Wellness Centre are members of one of the seven bands comprising the Saskatoon Tribal Council. That’s likely a big reason why Chief Arcand refers to them as relatives. Indeed, some of them are. But Arcand speaks from a broader perspective, saying that we are all related as human beings, and as such, should treat each other with kindness, dignity and respect.
Chief Arcand has been in the news lately for choosing not to attend a community association meeting, that not only had about 200 or 250 members of the Fairhaven neighbourhood attending, which is where the Emergency Wellness Centre has recently been relocated to, but also members of City council, the Saskatoon Police Service and the Saskatoon Fire Department were also in attendance.
Tribal Chief Arcand, it was noted, was conspicuous by his absence. It brought about heaps of criticism and even more frustration for those in attendance. So amid the barrage of insults and attacks primarily from keyboard warriors, but also from news reports and just around water coolers I suppose, I chose to call Chief Arcand to provide a few words of encouragement and support.
Despite this, in no way does it mean that I don’t empathize with the residents of Fairhaven. As a business organization with many members in downtown Saskatoon, I’m well aware of the challenges that come with the extracurricular activity by some of those Wellness Centre residents. It’s a problem that extends far beyond the purview and capacity of the Saskatoon Tribal Council.
That’s the thing about this situation that is so unfortunate. It’s primarily the provincial government’s responsibility to deliver healthcare, and because First Nations are involved, the Federal government has a very real responsibility as well.
In other words, none of this is technically Tribal Chief Arcand’s problem, but he’s the one that’s trying to provide a solution. And he’s getting dragged through the mud for it. It’s impacting not only him, but also members of his family, which is never OK in the world of public figures.
The rationale for Chief Arcand’s absence is logical and straightforward. He previously had a separate meeting with the Community Association President and members of the Police and Fire Department to go over the concerns. He also rightfully said that he and STC staff are only responsible for what happens inside their four walls. Anything outside becomes a public matter, and hence the Police are required.
Unfortunately many of these residents, or relatives as Chief Arcand calls them, suffer from mental health disorders and addiction issues. Some of them will never be cured. Others, however, can be rehabilitated. They could even become partial solutions to a labour shortage that we are currently suffering from. That potential is likely a long way from being realized, but it will take public health and counselling to overcome these obstacles. Both of which cost money.
So why do I raise all of this? This is a business organization after all that I represent. Well, aside from the potential labour pool mentioned above, we appreciate the steps that have been taken to make our downtown more business-friendly and welcoming, as do our members.
And finally, considering the gaps that currently exist in the infrastructure to deal with these matters, perhaps further consideration could be given by corporations (and others) to direct any donations as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility policy to this effort. It’s clear the status quo isn’t working for all, and we as a community must do what we can to lift up and support those that need it most.
Leadership is neither easy nor for the faint of heart. Thankfully, Chief Arcand’s heart is in the right place.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
Until next time, be safe, be smart, be considerate, be well, but most of all, be kind.