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“I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.” ~~ John G. Diefenbaker

ARJUN SINGH -- How to be Successful Working on Social Issues ...

REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION 


It's always a challenge to work to improve social issues in community - homelessness, mental health challenges, substance use disorder. There are not easy fixes here. These issues also sometimes cause social disorder and criminal activity. Often our most vulnerable citizens are preyed upon and become victims of crime.

 

Over the past years, Kamloops council and city hall management have increased our capacity to work on social issues. We haven't seen ourselves as a primary funder and have worked hard to facilitate and coordinate effective work. We have had a lot of successes relatively recently helping secure more social housing in the community.

 

Unfortunately, the challenges for our most vulnerable citizens have increased. This was the trend before COVID, and COVID has made it much more challenging. Social disorder has increased. And there seems to be less accountability for really bad behaviour and criminal activity.

 

Since the beginning of the year, the discussions at Kamloops council on helping our most vulnerable and decreasing social disorder have really ramped up. In conjunction with our provincial partners at BC Housing, we've funded more security patrols, we are looking to help fund more outreach workers, build more public bathrooms, and we're advocating to the provincial government for a whole range of services to again help our most vulnerable citizens. Housing we know is only a first step. We also think it's important that the criminal justice system work as well at it can to decrease criminal activity. 

 

We have both an empathetic approach and an accountability approach. A well-rounded approach, I hope. 

 

I applaud my council and city staff colleagues for their willingness to engage in tough conversations that we really haven't had in the same way before. Working with the RCMP, Interior Health, valued social agencies, and business association, we have historically done well in assisting people and decreasing negative impacts. Now, like many other communities, we are being challenged in a big way to continue being successful. I think it's going to be hard, and I believe we will succeed. 

 

I am sure we have made missteps and mistakes. I think we are open to thoughtful feedback. I am struck by the passion in my council colleagues to try to be of service in the best ways we can. 

 

I know many of us are seeing more negative activity in the community than we have seen before. It was always there but it was more hidden. Now we perhaps have the awareness which will lead to greater motivation for lasting solutions.

 

Vigilantism isn't a solution. Moving people along endlessly isn't a solution. Business storefronts with piles of garbage, discarded needles, and human feces isn't a solution.

 

Maybe the storm we are going through now is an opportunity to really think together about the best and most lasting solutions that honours the most citizens possible.

 

People rightly look to city council for representation, leadership, and assistance. I'd love to hear what you think about the issues and opportunities outlined above.

 

This, however, is something in which all of us have to engage. Take the best care you can of yourselves, your family, and your possessions. And also think about what are the best solutions for the most people.

 

If we are committed to getting though this time together, I believe there are much better times ahead with regards to our social issues. 


Arjun Singh ... was born and raised in Kamloops, and holds an MA in Professional Communication from Royal Roads University and a Certificate in Dialogue, Deliberation, and Public Engagement from Fielding Graduate University.

 

Arjun has served on a wide variety of Council committees during his time on council. He has most recently chaired Council's development and sustainability committee . He is also a council representative on the Kamloops Airport Society and a Director of the Thompson-Nicola Regional District.

 

Outside of his "Council time", Arjun helps manage an apartment complex, and enjoys travelling, good milk chocolate, technology, running, and spending time with his wife Marsha and their families. 



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