A presentation by Cst. Casey MacGregor, CPS’ Carmen Cousineau, and the President of the Optimist Club of Cornwall, Terry Muir, shone a light on an important issue in our city at this week’s city council meeting: the lack of welcoming spaces for teenagers and its impacts.
Cornwall Police Service statistics show that from 2020 to 2022, there was a 55% increase in youth related occurrences. Of those youth, 48% were involved in multiple occurrences. These occurrences happen mostly during the week between the hours of 12pm and 10pm. Some of the occurrences were trouble with youth, assault, disturbing the peace, and mischief.
Several incidences happened during last year’s Ribfest, where around 20 youth were roaming Lamoureux Park getting into physical altercations. The CPS were called. Some youths were arrested, others dispersed in the area.
“When speaking with many of the youths involved, a recurring issue was that there is no place for them to hang out and not everyone can afford to attend events,” said Terry Muir, “After reflecting on those comments, I have come to realize that there is really a lack of welcoming spaces for teenagers.”
Constable Casey MacGregor echoed the same sentiments from his experiences working with local youth.
“In speaking with many of my youth, the common theme is that there is nothing to do in Cornwall,” shared MacGregor, “If you’re a family with disposable income you can play hockey, there’s arts and music, but for the most part many of the families out there don’t have disposable income and the use of public parks are the way that they can do some activities.”
MacGregor explained that when teens were discouraged from hanging out at the bandshell after incidents occurred there, they moved to the harbor. Teens in Cornwall are being pushed into spaces that are not easily accessed, where crimes occur and there is no supervision.
Together with a youth advisory committee, they started to plan for a Cornwall Youth Space designed for kids over the age of 13 to address these issues.
With feedback from the youth themselves, they have come up with a plan for a space that includes things like a basketball court, ball hockey, gazebos, power, and Wi-Fi, a skatepark, graffiti wall, and neutral meeting space. They recently applied for a grant from the Building Safer Communities Fund, which is a 3.5-year investment from Public Safety Canada to help prevent gun and gang activity in our cities. As part of this new space, they would like to create a microgrant program to allow stakeholders to get creative with how the space is used and what is offered there.
The presentation at city council was to ask if they could use the municipal land located at the corner of Fourth Street and Marlborough, known as the former location of the Bob Turner. This location was selected because it is easily accessible for youth from all parts of town and a central location that can be supervised by the Cornwall Police Service.
The proposal was unanimously supported by the members of City Council, who referred the request to administration for a report. Most of all, they were impressed that the meeting was attended by many members from youth advisory committee.
“The most important thing that I heard here today was the young people getting involved and telling us what they need. Thank you for taking the time, your time, you young folks, because you are our future leaders, and you’ve started leading already,” said Councilor Gardiner to a round of applause.
“Everything I see here is great and what really impresses me is that the youth stepped up, but the youth showed up. Man, its one thing to say the kids want it but the kids showed up. So, you’ve got my attention,” added Councilor Bennett.