Getting out of the Fort William Trap in Thunder Bay

Willow Fiddler
APTN National News
Crystal Morrison sits at her kitchen table making a ribbon skirt using her traditional colours that came to her in a dream.

Morrison was sitting at a different table about two years ago when she was addicted to drugs and alcohol.

“It became a once a month thing, then it became weekly and then it became anywhere from four to five times a week drinking down there,” says Morrison.

“Everybody knew my name down there.”

She’s talking about the Fort William Trap in the south end of Thunder Bay.

It’s where the city’s marginalized people can be seen hanging out near the Victoriaville Mall and Newfie’s Pub.

“There was a lot of stabbings that happened there, there was shootings that happened there, there was gangs, you know people were afraid at that time of walking home,” Morrison recalls.

It’s gotten a lot worse in the last year according to people APTN News spoke to recently in Thunder Bay, as gangs from Toronto and Ottawa flood the city.

Morrison now tries to help people get out of the trap. But finding their way out tends to be a journey of their own.

“I’ve never been to treatment,” says Morrison.

Instead, she found a group of women who shared similar experiences.

“We’re sobriety sisters,” she says. “We’re all aiming for the same thing and that’s to be who we are and not afraid to show it, so to speak.”

Ron Kanutski knows what Morrison went through because he fought, much like her, to get out of the trap.

He was a young man when first came to Thunder Bay more than two decades ago.

“I came to Thunder Bay for something better,” he says, adding as a young man he blamed others for his problems. ” I don’t have a problem, it’s my family, it’s my girlfriend, it’s my friends, it’s this community, it’s their belief system.

“I’m going to go somewhere else and start over where it’s better.”

But his problem followed him.

“Then I came to realize, I can’t run away from what I’m dealing with. I got to take a look at what’s going on from here,” says Kanutski.

“I have a saying now that I always say, I had to feed my spirit something different than I was feeding it.”

Kanutski is a musician and a comedian and has worked with treatment centres and youth.

“Right now … it’s an epidemic, it’s out of control and we just don’t have enough services to even deal with this right now,” he says of Thunder Bay.

But that doesn’t stop him from trying to draw people from the darkness into what he calls the light.

“We need to talk to that next generation that’s coming because they’re vulnerable and they’re living…some children are living in some dark situations,” he says.

Kanutski has been using culture and traditional practices to reach out to children for the last 17 years.

“These aren’t just names, these are human beings you know and they’re lost and we’ve got to help people find their way back,” he says.

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