I spoke with my mother about her recent move back to Winnipeg, Manitoba after having moved to Quebec City (and then Toronto) over 20 years ago. What’s it like to return to one’s hometown? Is Winnipeg a nice city? A crime-ridden cesspool? Find out!
How long has it been since you last lived in Winnipeg?
I moved away when I was 31. I’ve been away for 21 years.
What brought you back?
I found myself with an opportunity to be back with my family: my mom, and my sister and cousins. I was living alone in Toronto and figured I would move back to Winnipeg because I had family here and also because the cost of living was I would say maybe a third of that of Toronto.
Even though you grew up in Winnipeg, did you experience any culture shock when you came back?
I had culture shock from where I was used to living, but I knew what I was getting into. I knew there’d be no walk-friendly places. Mind you, I was only three years in Toronto and I was 18 years in Quebec City. In Quebec City, I needed a car where I lived as well. Quebec City is a much cleaner and more historic city; Toronto is more happening. The [driving] lifestyle in Quebec City and the cold winters were things I was used to. But as far as [comparing] Toronto goes, [in] Winnipeg there’s no walking at night, there’s no feeling of security. So in that sense, yes, there was culture shock.
Do you like Winnipeg?
I’m growing to like it. I don’t dislike it: I just think they could do so many things different[ly] to make it more people-friendly. But I haven’t had a bad time here. Of course, there’s certain things you miss about the different places you’ve lived, but there’s such a sense of familiarity here for me.
Has Winnipeg changed a lot?
It’s more city-like. They’re starting to build big condos and they’re starting to do things that other cities are doing – however, I would say that it’s remained the same more than it has changed.
Do you think that’s a bad thing?
I don’t think it’s a bad thing, I just think that I’ve seen the way a couple of other cities are and I see where there needs to be improvement. To me it seems like such a simple thing and yet it hasn’t happened.
What do you think could be done to improve Winnipeg?
I think they could improve people’s ability to go out at night by having things [stay] open. It’s a city that shuts down because people are afraid of crime. Everything is closed down. If everybody stayed open at the same time – bang! our hours are changed, we’re staying open, we’re not going to be afraid – you would have more people out on the street, more people shopping, witnesses. The criminals would go someplace else or go into hiding.
What else could be changed?
I think they could change the lighting. Again, it points back to crime. Everything is just open for criminals: “It’s dark here. Let’s hover. Let’s steal. Let’s rob. Let’s kill.”
Do you think that Winnipeg’s primary problem is crime?
Yes. Absolutely. Take away that crime, and I think this is a great city. People would be out and about and there would be more things to do. People wouldn’t be afraid.
You seem to think that crime deterrence is strongly connected to improving infrastructure.
For sure. Things are spaced out, things are dark. But even the crime downtown is because everybody just goes home. The stores close at five or six. Everything closes, and so out come the people who are just hanging around doing nothing but bad things. There are a lot of gang things going on here. However: I did hear on the news today that crime has dropped significantly this past year – by a lot. I don’t know why. Maybe there are more police officers out on the streets, maybe more officers patrolling.
Do you feel unsafe in Winnipeg?
I’m not afraid, [but] I’m also careful. When I was in Toronto, if I came home at 10 o’clock at night on the bus, I might look over my shoulder now and again if I heard something, but you know, I wasn’t afraid to walk. Here, at dusk, you don’t go walking the streets. It’s just not heard of. Now, I know there are better places [in Winnipeg] than where I’m living where I probably would feel okay doing that.
Which neighbourhood do you live in?
Point Douglas. I’ve always known it as “West,” though. Between the North End and the West End. It’s at the crux of everything. You go over the bridge and things get better quickly.
What do you like about Winnipeg?
I like the cost of living, although it is going up. I like the fact that everything feels familiar. I guess that’s the thing I like most about Winnipeg, that I can go down the street and say, “Oh yeah, I walked that street when I was 15.” I have a memory. So maybe it’s the memory that I like more than the city.
Do you regret ever leaving in the first place?
No, I don’t. I probably wouldn’t be the same person had I not left. You get caught up in things. I’ve learned a lot by being away.
Do you think you’ll stay in Winnipeg forever?
I can’t say that. I know that I’m here for a couple of years, anyway. A few years. I’ve got a good job. I don’t see myself moving in the near future. I’d like to move to a different location in the city, though. Right now my dilemma is, do I move to the outskirts where there’s less crime and I could have a little garden, or do I move where things are starting to pick up and things have started happening? But then the cost of living goes up and I’m not in a financial situation — you know, one of the reasons I came here is because the cost of living is lower. If I end up making a huge mortgage payment, I’ve defeated the purpose of ever moving here, as far as financial reasons are concerned.
Any last thoughts about Winnipeg?
I have hope for Winnipeg. I see them building skyscrapers, I see them building, and I really think [things are] on the up. I would like to stick around a few years and watch the city grow.