A newly-released South Saskatchewan Community Foundation (SSCF) report shed some light on the issues most important to those in the region. The report identified five emerging issues.
- Sustaining rural communities
- Drug abuse and addiction
- Safety in communities
- Racism towards new immigrants and Indigenous peoples
- Homelessness and affordable housing
“We wanted to go into south Saskatchewan and find out at a grassroots level, ‘what’s happening in our communities? What are some of the challenges?'” SSCF executive director Donna Ziegler said Wednesday at the report’s release event.
SSCF board co-chair Leslie Ciz said she hopes the report can help the organization fulfill its mandate of connecting donors to charities while supporting thriving communities.
“With support from the SSCF’s donors, charities and partners,” she said, “it’s a way to help rural Saskatchewan become stronger, and address the challenges we are facing.”
The SSCF commissioned its 50 Vital Community Conversations study earlier this year in part to commemorate the organization’s 50th anniversary.
Under the research eye of the University of Regina’s Dr. Iryna Khovrenkov, the SSCF worked with 47 different organizations across southern Saskatchewan to gather information for the report. Fifty-six “community conversations” were held in which participants were asked seven questions:
- What does community mean to you?
- What are the top three indicators in your community?
- What are your community’s key needs/priorities?
- What is an emerging issue in your community?
- What challenges does your community face at the moment?
- What support or resources are required to make the changes needed in
- What kind of community do you wish to have? What are the two or
three issues standing in the way of having this kind of community?
Sustaining rural communities were listed as an “emerging issue” in 22 per cent of the report’s conversations. While Saskatchewan still holds a relatively high rural population percentage (34 per cent) compared to other Canadian provinces, that number has declined 50 per cent since 1901.
The report attributes this, in part, to the consolidation of farmland. Additionally, the report says that with more and more young people heading to urban centres, rural communities are struggling with an age diversity problem.
In terms of the specific challenges these trends pose, the report’s participants listed that they have trouble maintaining arts and cultural programs, that school closures are a problem and that they have a lack of public transportation options.
Participants listed more government funding as a potential solution to this and many of the other emerging issues listed in the report. They also suggested education about the importance of things like the arts and food banks could be beneficial.
Twenty per cent of conversations listed drug abuse and addiction as an emerging issue, 20 per cent found safety and crime a concern, 13 per cent listed racism towards Indigenous people and new Canadians in the report, and 9 per cent mentioned homelessness and affordable housing as a growing problem.