In March, our 2013 list of the Worst Places to Immigrate to in Canada attracted a good deal of attention due to some contentious claims, one of which implied that the city of Thunder Bay was not a great place for minorities to live in. This statement attracted so much negative attention - including multiple responses from the Mayor of Thunder Bay, Keith Hobbs - that we removed it from the article, because we could not support it with statistical evidence at the time - the author had used anecdotes to make the claim. However we have been sent an anonymous account of life in Thunder Bay by a person of colour, also a non-Christian, who claims that racism in Thunder Bay is rampant. Here is his story:
I’ve spent 5 years in Thunder Bay (2009-2014) and as a black Muslim I have experienced all sorts of discrimination by people who are just ignorant and naive and have no knowledge of diversity.
My first year in Thunder Bay, obviously I did not know what to expect as I had primarily chosen to move there because of the university that I was attending commencing Fall 2009. After driving for almost 14 hours we finally arrived in the city of Thunder Bay. When I arrived, I learned from the waitress the reason the restaurant was so busy was because half the city had no power… not very comforting knowing that I would be spending 4-5 years in the city. This doesn’t seem like a real issue but it speaks louder when you get to know more about the city. The waitress also said we would enjoy our time in the city, really making my friend and I feel better about the city of Thunder Bay. Mayor Keith Hobbs would incontestably back up her claim.
Fast forward to late October. Me and some friends were in line at a bar/restaurant when all of a sudden aggressive and offensive words were shouted at us by an individual who I did not know, had never met, and had done nothing to provoke. I remember the exact words this person said, 5 years from the time it occurred.
“F**k you N*gger!”, “F**k you N*gger!”
“I’ll F**k** stomp you!”
“F**k you N*gger!”, “F**k you N*gger!”
The man used the line “F**k you N*gger!” numerous times. I can’t recall how many but it took a while for me to notice because I am not a person who is confrontational or starts fights for no good reason. I may be mistaken but I believe it took me half a minute to realize that this person was targeting me. As I looked through the line of people, I realized that I was the only black person in line! Did I really deserve this? What exactly did I do to this person to provoke this attack?
Now this individual was walking away with 2 other people. He was being held by a woman he was walking with, and a male friend who acted like he shared the same views as the man shouting at me. Subsequently I stepped one foot out of the line because, although I am not a person who resolves his problems with violence, I wanted to know the guy's problem. I just wanted to speak with the individual but then a friend of mine grabbed my arm and said “It’s not worth it” and I knew that. Trying to change one person’s attitude at 11:30 in the evening is probably not the best idea and ultimately a waste of time.
I have been insulted before but never like that. I was born in Toronto and yes I’ve been called a “N*****” (in elementary school of all places) but that was by a kid who clearly made a mistake because they just wanted to insult me and to them “N*****” was a safer word than swearing and more offensive than calling me “ugly”.
Outside the bar, I could tell from this individual’s tone and voice that he truly hated “black people”. I know when something is said out of anger and this person just went too far, yelling at the top of his lungs. I am not sure what would tip this person over so that he would resort to violence but that is something I did not wait around to find out. He was anywhere between the age of 19 and 25 so to my understanding, the aggressiveness in his voice meant he’d had these views for some time. At such a young age how can someone have such strong negative views about another race?
My next point: Mayor Keith Hobbs says, "Thunder Bay was built by the hard-working hands of Immigrants. We have a large Italian population, the largest Finnish population in the world outside of Finland, 22,000 urban Aboriginals (estimate) and a growing Muslim community”.
Mayor Keith Hobbs is making it sound like Thunder Bay is diverse like Toronto, when that is not the case. Actions speak louder than words! The only thing that I have to say is “Go see for yourself”. The other interpretation that I am getting from this statement is that those people who built the town with their hard-working hands control the city. This town is based on seniority (who has been there the longest) even though those people should not be leaders in the community. I don’t know what views those who are considered “the rich” have in Thunder Bay, but by what I have experienced there is a huge gap between the rich and the poor. I have been in the city for 5 years and it doesn’t look like the marginalized Aboriginal community will be get better. The city of Thunder Bay will continue to not care for equal rights and opportunities.
I am constantly approached by Aboriginal people when they are in need of something when I don’t even know them and I am constantly thinking that clearly the Aboriginal community is hurting and they have not been given the proper resources that Mayor Keith Hobbs states in his response to this article. He makes it sound like Thunder Bay is the greatest city in the world. He is voicing the views of Caucasian people and I don’t say that in a discriminating way. Caucasians won’t be targeted by Thunder Bay residents with racism and discrimination because there is nothing to discriminate about (besides looks). Thunder Bay residents will actually express their discriminatory views with you thinking that you would agree because that is the view that they have held since birth. Something that is hard to change and I can tell by their body language they are hesitant to know what my views are. I don’t know who exactly is feeding them this information but it is truly a disgusting act.
A friend of mine told me more about the Muslim community in Thunder Bay. The stories he tells me are about how the residents of Thunder Bay are mistreating the religion of Islam by arriving at mosques saying they would like to convert to Islam. They then take this opportunity to make fun of our religion by using graffiti, disrespecting the Quran and yelling insulting things like “When is prayer time?!”. Then they laugh and drive away because it's a crowded street full of Muslim people who have just come to the mosque in Thunder Bay to practice their religion. This happens constantly, as I just witnessed myself in 2013.
As far as the discrimination of Aboriginals go, when an Aboriginal person is being targeted with racist remarks I feel like I am being attacked as well. One day as I walked into a Thunder Bay Mac’s convenience, I wanted to buy some candy and then someone in the store (whom I met in Thunder Bay) says something along the lines of “Don’t buy that candy, Natives put their dirty hands on it”. The more time I spent in Thunder Bay, I got to learn more about their views about Aboriginals specifically. I have some friends that are half Aboriginal and half Caucasian and are constantly ridiculed for being part Aboriginal. And unfortunately they are judged this way by both Aboriginals and Caucasians because of their History with each other. An acquaintance told me Aboriginals (although non-aboriginals refer to them as natives) hate being called a “Bogen”. I asked that person why and they said its pretty much like calling a black person and “N*gger” and is meant to be offensive when used.
“One of the fastest growing city in Canada” – Keith Hobbs.
Give me a break Keith. This mayor needs to open his eyes. Pat Spracklin made a good point. I read the article before IMMIgroup posted "There was no intent on the part of the author or IMMIgroup to assign blame for these conditions, rather only to make note of them,". I did the same thing! I am not from Thunder Bay so my experiences in this town will stand out more than a person who was born in Thunder Bay.
This account is published as it was sent to us and has only been edited for grammar and spelling. The photo has been changed as it originally depected a shopping centre in Michigan.