City Launches Project to Acclimate Newcomers

By Leah Ching

In a collaborative effort with Thunderstone Pictures, the City of Thunder Bay is embarking on a project to help acclimate newcomers to the city. On March 4, city officials launched The Welcome Project; a series of four short films and an accompanying website that will be part of a larger city-led strategy to help ease a newcomer’s transition to life in Thunder Bay.

As an outgrowth of the Walk a Mile Film Project, The Welcome Project like its predecessor, will be a co-production between the city, Thunderstone Pictures, and local community partners. The films, according to Aboriginal liaison Ann Magiskan, will feature a strong focus on fostering positive relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

Magiskan noted that the target audience is First Nation high school, university, and college students. “The goals are helping them connect with the community and learn the resources available to them. We hope to foster an easier transition to life in Thunder Bay and create a welcoming atmosphere for newcomers. We know the struggles First Nations students face in coming from smaller communities, and this project is us doing what we can to ease that.”

City clerk John Hannam gave The Walleye a preview of what each film is planned to feature. Hannam says, “each 3-5 minute film will include some animation in terms of style, but in terms of content, the first will deal with cultural and historical backgrounds of the Indigenous, featuring different ways of coming to know things. Another film will deal with adapting to a new city, with the next will be focused on becoming ‘streetwise.’ The last one will be largely about how to thrive here in Thunder Bay.”

IMG_1525Film director Michelle Derosier of Thunderstone Pictures said, “We’re very excited about the initiative. Film is such a powerful tool that helps us tap into the Indigenous tradition of storytelling. I believe this project will have a tremendously positive impact.”

Reflecting on the next steps for Thunderstone Derosier said, “we will look toward the community and speak with students to understand what they need in order to successfully transition to the city.”

The cost of this project has been estimated at $57 000, and the city is seeking private sponsorships to help with funding. The final product is set to launch at the Festival of Services and Fall Feast in September, where the films will be distributed to various communities after the event to serve its educational purpose.

Hannam noted that The Welcome Project is part of the city’s effort at fulfilling their 2015-2018 Corporate Strategic Plan, in which the city commits to become increasingly, “Safe, welcoming and inclusive. Proud of its diversity and unique culture, and welcoming to the world with globally enhanced image and identity.”

“We’re starting to use the word ‘connecting’ instead of ‘welcoming,’” says Hannam. We want to connect people to their community, ensure they can connect with the services, supports, and people that will make their experiences a positive one. We want people to thrive here.”

Walk-A-Mile Film Project Trailer from Thunderstone Pictures on Vimeo.