Unsafe harbour: Parents weigh school versus safety in Thunder Bay

November 14, 2017

In remote communities throughout northwestern Ontario, Indigenous families are afraid for their children. 

For many communities in the North, the reality for young people is that moving far from home is often their only way to get a high school education. But sending students to the city takes them out of the supporting sphere of their own family and community at an age when they can be particularly vulnerable to pressures ranging from alcohol and drugs, to depression, to racism.

Since 2000, nine young people have died in Thunder Bay, most while attending high school away from their home communities. Several of these deaths are still unsolved

Increasingly, families are refusing to send their children to Thunder Bay. They're seeking alternatives and arranging for high school education elsewhere, in places such as Winnipeg, Red Lake or Sioux Lookout.

CBC News visited Thunder Bay and Deer Lake First Nation to speak with municipal and Indigenous leaders, support workers, students and their families. One family knew their daughter, an aspiring hockey player, would have better access to teams and coaches in the city, but they decided she wouldn't be safe. Another family's daughter is returning for a second year at a Thunder Bay high school and the opportunities — and risks — the city offers. 

Read more: Unsafe harbour: Parents weigh school versus safety in Thunder Bay