2016 IW Winners

Influential Community Trailblazer - Thunder Bay

Terri-Lynne Carter

Terri-Lynne Carter

Terri-Lynne Carter became a strident voice for the impoverished in Thunder Bay when she became one of the disadvantaged. Known as a persistent and eloquent advocate for the needs of 15 per cent of the city’s population, her path toward social justice unfolded when she became stricken with Crohn’s disease while away attending university in London.

The severe complications from that affliction, and the several surgeries that followed, derailed her career plan for graduate work in bioscience.

In order to be closer to her family, she returned home to Thunder Bay, which drew her to the issues of the disadvantaged and physically challenged, based on her experience of manoeuvring within the Ontario Disability Support Program.

“As much as I’m grateful that there is a social safety network in Canada, there are also lots of gaps,” said Carter. “You don’t really see them until you’re trying to navigate through the system. That’s what drew me to work on these gaps. Lots of times it’s just bad policy and getting some rules changed which would greatly improve people’s lives.”

As a tireless volunteer, founding member and former chair of Poverty Free Thunder Bay — a coalition of people advocating for social change towards the elimination of poverty — Carter has proven herself at being particularly adept at forging community- wide partnerships and alliances, and raising greater awareness on the issues concerning the city’s vulnerable and most marginalized.

Her nominators say she is willing to dive into the root causes of some of the most complex social issues and has devoted much time and energy to make a difference in the lives of an estimated 16,000 residents — including 4,000 children — who live in poverty.

She has served on steering committees and advocacy groups to tackle the issues of homelessness and influenced the city’s food and drug strategy. In wanting to put poverty and social justice on the minds of Thunder Bay voters, Carter took a stab at running for one of five at-large seats on city council during the 2014 municipal election.

She finished ninth with a respectable 6,586 votes.

Carter currently works in Community Impact for the United Way of Thunder Bay as coordinator of Thunder Bay Counts, a networking project that pulls together information about local social issues and establishes priorities to take action.

“It involves bringing groups together to better communicate on what they’re doing,” Carter said. “A lot of time when you’re in the thick of what you’re doing, other people don’t always know. We’re helping to communicate what’s going on.”

Carter has campaigned on issues such as affordable housing in Thunder Bay and has lobbied to have the minimum wage raised to $14 and indexed to inflation. Through social and mainstream media, it started a community conversation as to what defines a living wage.

She’s helped to shape Thunder Bay’s poverty reduction strategy that’s built on the pillars of housing, income and community economic development, infrastructure, and inclusion and engagement.

“We’re trying to figure out what are the most pressing issues and how should we tackle them.” Carter derives some satisfaction in knowing that many in leadership positions in Thunder Bay are finally acknowledging that a good portion of their neighbours are struggling. It’s inspired many others to come forward to offer help.

“We’re saying we have problems and here they are.”

Through her personal difficulties, her nominators say she remains always positive and compassionate toward the struggles of others.

“I don’t want people to suffer the way I did, trying to navigate the system. A lot of it is unnecessary and needs to be brought to people’s attention. Hopefully, we can make change.”

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