Hamer-Jackson talks social issues, Casimir touts growth in state of the city speeches

Mayor focuses on disorder

Tk’emlups Kukpi7 Rosanne Casimir highlighted the band’s successes and challenges while Kamloops Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson focused on his desire to see progress on social issues during state of the city addresses Thursday.

The two elected leaders gave speeches in front of hundreds of attendees at An Evening with Kukpi7 Rosanne Casimir and Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson, an event held at Thompson Rivers University and hosted by the Kamloops and District Chamber of Commerce.

Hamer-Jackson said he was “accused of being a one-issue mayor,” only caring about the challenges presented by a vulnerable population on city streets.

“The irony in this is that our city is unable to move forward until our streets and communities are safer. To strengthen our business communities, we need to identify and consider options to addressing the challenges we face,” Hamer-Jackson said.

The mayor said he understands some harm reduction beds are needed, but repeated his vision for shifting to a recovery-focused model for people who have addictions, including a new wellness ranch.

He said a “robust travel back home program” is needed to bring vulnerable people back to their home communities, adding he has talked with individuals on the street who say they want to leave Kamloops.

(According to data from the 2021 Point-In-Time homeless count, the No. 1 reason that vulnerable people moved to Kamloops was family, with 76 per cent of survey respondents having lived in Kamloops for at least one year. Nearly 30 per cent reported living in Kamloops for more than 10 years.)

Hamer-Jackson said he recently spoke with a new business owner who has had difficulties with opening a storefront due to struggles with vandalism, property crime and open drug use.

He asked businesses and residents to reach out to council members to let them know about the problems they are facing.

When Casimir took to the stage, she noted the mayor’s “emotional” speech.

“When you're new and jumping into that role, there’s so many things that you want to see change. And sometimes that change doesn't happen soon, or fast enough, especially when you know the harsh realities of what is happening,” Casimir said.

Casimir spoke about Tk’emlups te Secwepemc’s recent achievements, including the continued construction of a full-service community grocery store, the opening of new Tesla charging stations and work on a more environmentally friendly engineered waste management facility.

She said the band is excited about the prospect of hosting the North American Indigenous Games, adding the final bid was submitted on March 10. The winner of the host committee bid is expected to be announced this summer.

Casimir said TteS continues to work with the federal government to move forward on a healing centre, elders lodge and museum.

“Our vision for economic sovereignty is nothing without healing for our people, and breaking that cycle of intergenerational trauma,” Casimir said.

She noted the band faces challenges with staffing shortages, including finding and retaining qualified employees, rising inflation and housing costs, and a lack of infrastructure.

"We do not have enough infrastructure on reserve. So we require more access to public transportation, and more roadway maintenance,” Casimir said.

She said the band has concerns around the forest industry, especially with recent mill closures, and said she wanted to see progress on restoring and protecting salmon habitat. Casimir noted the importance of balancing economic opportunity with sustainability and environmentally friendly practices.

Casimir, who received a standing ovation for her address, said TteS’ vision for 2023 included economic growth, sustainable processes and programs, and bringing people together.

“We're going to continue to strive towards self-sustainability while advancing our self determination and continuing our healing journey for our community,” Casimir said.

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