Transcript of Reverend James Holland’s presentation to Executive Committee April 21, 2010
Mr. Mayor and Council members, thank you for allowing me to speak. I kind of have a little softer touch; they've given you all the stats, you've read them and seen them. First of all, to those who don't know me, I am the pastor at Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples. It is the official parish of First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples in this Archdiocese. We are very proud to be of status. Also I would like to tell you that less than 5% of the aboriginal people live in the inner city. Most of our aboriginal people, First Nations, Metis and Inuit people, live in the entire city and most of them are very productive members of society.
The other thing is that I start my 16th year at Sacred Heart September 1. When I came to Sacred Heart, the inner city was a ghetto and the inner city is still a ghetto. Some things change. Some things get worse. And there are a few things that get better. We have a housing problem, but we have worse problems than that. I don't know of any other community, other than maybe some of the surrounding areas, that allows public drinking in the streets and on the corners. I don't know if any of the other 200 something communities would allow people to use their drugs on my doorsteps of the church, buy and sell drugs openly as if it is a market.
The agencies that work, work very hard. I am on the board of the Boyle McCauley Health Centre since 1997. I can walk into the Boyle McCauley Health Centre; someone will be using drugs on the front steps... in the back. They don't do it as much around my church because I have patrolled my church day and night.
I clean up the park because, being in the ghetto, we get services, but we are the last one on the list. They will service everyone else in the city, until they service us. Parks department has the park next door, which belongs to the Catholic School Board which is the Catholic Church. They service it whenever they have cleaned every park in the city. I clean the park personally every day. When the grass needs to be cut, I cut the grass, because otherwise we would have to get a hay bailer in there to cut it. That's the type of service we get today.
I don't call the police anymore because it takes them 2 hours, because there are so many other things, which our neighbourhood doesn't deserve. I also speak very much for those people we are talking about having rights. People who own houses, have lived in that neighbourhood, raised their children. They have rights too. I fortunately have several dogs in my house so I am alerted if anyone breaks in, but I have been hit twice. I've been called every name you could possibly call me. And I have been challenged and threatened with my life because I live in a ghetto. I deserve better and the people who live in that ghetto deserve better. I'm not so sure if this protocol is the right thing, but I can tell you this: we need better and healthier neighbourhoods.
From what I see the Community League is trying to do, it’s to try to change this status of being a ghetto and try to make it a viable community, and that has to come from the help from downtown. You have to know how we live. I do have a spare room if any of you would like to come and move in for a couple weeks to see it for the real stuff. I would be more than happy to have you. You can answer my front door; you can walk in the parks; and be called names that you cannot believe.
We also have a problem of human waste. At one time I picked up 5 piles of human waste out of the rink, sorry, so that kids would have a place to play. We don't have a lot of kids anymore because the schools are closing, but we still have kids who have rights. They have a right to have a park. They have a right to have a place to play. And I have to continue fighting doing it myself, as well as run my very large congregation. I thank you. And I know that with the wisdom of this council, I know that Mayor Stephen is a wise man, and I know we can work something out, and it doesn't have to be bureaucratic. It can simply be human beings living together with equal rights because we are all human beings. Thanks.