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Area to be re-designated as a ‘Safe Community’

By Heather Latter,
Fort Frances Times
Wednesday, May 21, 2008

FORT FRANCES—The Rainy River Valley Safety Coalition is hosting a “Safe Communities” re-designation gala next Wednesday (May 28) from 1-4:30 p.m. and everyone is invited to attend.
“It’s giving us the status of a ‘safe community’ again because we are continuing to meet the criteria,” RRVSC chair Grace Silander noted Tuesday.
“The gala will recognize the efforts of our municipalities, aboriginal communities, and community partners that strive to make our district safe,” she added.
Silander explained Rainy River District received the designation from Safe Communities Canada in 1997 and then was awarded the international “Safe Communities” title by the World Health Organization in 2002 when the RRVSC hosted the 11th-annual World Health Safe Communities conference, which attracted more than 250 delegates from 23 countries around the world.
The WHO designation was intended to last 10 years, but regulations changed and now the title needs to be re-evaluated every five years.
Last year, the RRVSC also earned the Safe Communities Canada Award of Excellence for Community Leadership—an award which recognizes outstanding examples of how real community leadership can, and does, make a difference in our network of designated communities.
There are eight different categories of criteria that need to be met in order to receive the designation or re-designation of a “safe community.”
These include community infrastructure, community participation, program sustainability, program range, priority populations, program evaluation, impact and effectiveness, and community engagement.
“We’ve met every one of these standards and proven each one,” Silander stressed. “The community actually leads a lot of the programs. It’s the movers and the shakers who are the driving force. . . .
“We try to bring the communities in as much as we can,” she added.
The programs not only are sustainable funding-wise, but also reach each demographic group from children and teenagers to adults and seniors.
These programs include D.A.R.E., fire safety, seatbelt campaigns, and bike safety—just to name a few.
“And it’s a real achievement for us because we have such a large area to designate,” Silander added, noting there are 10 municipalities and nine First Nations communities included in the “Safe Communities” re-designation.
The municipalities are community partners with the RRVSC while there also are a number of organization partners, such as both local school boards, Crime Stoppers, the OPP, the Northwestern Health Unit, Family and Children’s Services, and many more.
“We’re quite excited about the re-designation,” Silander enthused.
Guest speakers for the afternoon gala will include Paul Kells (Safe Communities Canada), Donna Stein Harris (National Safety Council of United States), Freeda Carmody (Rainy River District representative for the Ontario Municipal Association, and Silander (RRVSC).
The theme for the event is “Growing Our Garden of Safety,” which builds on the 2002 theme of “Seeds.”
The gala will be a come-and-go affair, with the re-designation ceremony itself running from 2-4 p.m.
“We hope as many partners are possible come out, as well as members of the public,” Silander said, adding people will have time to view posters, talk to others, and see what the RRVSC is doing.
In addition, the RRVSC will be kicking off the launch of its reusable bag fundraiser.
These reusable bags, bearing the inscription, “Supporting Safety in the Community,” will be available to purchase at businesses around the district for $2 each.
As well, they will be highlighting the RRVSC Checklist, which is a document of information on a variety of different safety topics.
A draw also will take place during the afternoon that will see one municipality earning the honour of planting a “tree of safety” in their community.
“We really hope lots of people come out,” said Silander.
She noted there will be finger foods, tea, and coffee, as well as a cash bar (though she hopes people will make plans to get home safely afterwards).

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