Since coming to Brantford, I’ve heard a lot about “the locals”. How someone pulled a knife at 2 a.m. on one of my friends, how someone started a fight at local nightclub NV, just because one of my friends made eye contact with him and, while walking past Vegas, someone called me “Short Legs”. The common theme is that the “someone” in these stories were all Brantford locals, meaning, people from the local downtown area. But I challenge anyone to walk in downtown Toronto, or my hometown of Ottawa, at 2 a.m. and not have some kind of issue, or walk by a bar and not get hit on, or have someone who was intoxicated at a club not start something. I don’t think that it’s just Brantford locals who participate in this behaviour, I think many students at Laurier Brantford are viewing the people in our surroundings in a typical small town “us” and “them” mentality. The students here seem to think that the local people here in Brantford hate us and the residents seem to share these same feelings. I think that there are a lot of false stereotypes about the people who live in Brantford, but I don’t think that this city is any worse than any other university city. But I do think that our attitudes towards the locals here are worse than any other university.
The unemployment rate in Brantford was 8.8 per cent in 2012 and the unemployment rate in Toronto is 7.8 per cent this year. Canada’s unemployment rate is 7.0 per cent. So, Brantford is almost 2 per cent above the national average, but we have a lot less homeless people that I thought, given the statistics. Don’t get me wrong, homelessness is a big deal, especially in Brantford. Housing is the top issue outlined in the Community Needs Assessment on Homelessness Issues in Brantford. In 2007, approximately 316 individuals were living on the streets, 213 were living in transitional housing and 35 were at risk of being homeless, according to The Homeless Hub. The population in 2006 was 124 607, which means the homelessness rate in Brantford was 0.4 per cent, which is a lot lower than I had initially percieved.
Brantford also has a lower police-reported violent crime severity index than the Canadian average, which is 81.4, Brantford being around 60. This means there are less violent crimes in Brantford on average than all of Canada. So, the myth that Brantford locals are “dangerous” is far from true, at least not as dangerous as the Canadian average. I’ve heard people mention that it is the car theft capital of Canada (it’s not anymore), has the highest crime rate in Canada per capita, along with a collection of other things which simply aren’t true. I looked up Brantford on satirical Urban Dictionary, just to see what people had to say. It is full of these stereotypes. Clearly people aren’t educating themselves about the positives Brantford has to offer. Some of the things that were mentioned were that you could buy crystal meth on the street. Once again, I’d like to mention that you could probably walk down the streets of Toronto or any downtown city and find a place to buy drugs. These social issues are not unique to Brantford, I just think that people associate these negative things with our city exclusively.
While I have felt unsafe before, for example, walking home after dark by myself, I’ve never actually had a negative experience that would cause me to feel this way. I think the main reason why I feel nervous or scared is because I’ve heard so many rumours and been told that I should be afraid. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be careful when going out at night. In any city you should make sure that you are being safe. I always make sure that I am walking home with a friend or I call Foot Patrol. Being alert and safe is not a practice that only needs to happen, simply because you’re in Brantford.
I think that we need to stop having this “us” and “them” mentality because it is causing more harm than the locals are. It’s breaking our community into two groups – the people who belong to Laurier Brantford and the people who do not. Since this is such a small university and Brantford is a small town, perpetuating these stereotypes just makes a greater divide between the two groups, when we should really be coming together to help each other make Brantford a greater place to live. There’s no denying that it was once a sketchy town (trust me, I’ve heard the stories), but it really is different now, and it can only get better. Once we stop breaking off into two teams, maybe we can finally get somewhere and start appreciating the town for what it is. Like it or not, it’s our home and we need to start treating it that way.