Dear Thunder Bay

A platform for First Nations students to express their thoughts, fears, and hopes for positive change.

Dear Thunder Bay

Advertising, Film / TV, Graphic Design, Motion Graphics

The Inquest into the deaths of Seven First Nations Youth, Jethro Anderson, Reggie Bushie, Robyn Harper, Kyle Morrisseau, Paul Panacheese, Curran Strang, and Jordan Wabasse, began on October 5, 2015. When the inquest concluded on June 28, 2016, the Jury’s verdict included 145 recommendations, 31 of which were directed to the City of Thunder Bay, with the focus on preventing future deaths of First Nations youth attending high school in the city.

Generator was brought into a partnership with the City of Thunder Bay, Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN), Northern Nishnawbe Education Council, Keewaytinook Okimatanak Board of Education (KOBE), Matawa First Nations- Education, Thunder Bay Police Services Board, Thunder Bay Crime Prevention Council and the Youth Inclusion Program to develop an awareness campaign for Recommendation 116: “Work with First Nation expertise to develop a local and social media campaign, which addresses: challenges, health and safety, racism faced by First Nation students, and reporting racism.”

Every year, scores of First Nations students leave their homes in northern communities to come to Thunder Bay for a high school education. Upon arrival, these same youth are then exposed to a wide range of health, social and racial/cultural challenges. Through an integrated design campaign, Generator aimed to shift public perception and attitudes to create a more supportive and inclusive environment for the students.

Generator knew that a standard Public Service Announcement campaign wouldn’t be enough. If this campaign was going to effectively shed light on the community’s blind spots, it needed to be told from a point-of-view that people could not ignore. The “Dear Thunder Bay” concept was designed to provide a platform for First Nations students and their supporters to express their desires for positive change. We invited First Nations students, across our partnering schools, to anonymously submit letters sharing their fears, anger, pains, as well as their hopes, dreams, and ideas for positive change, without fear of backlash. We then compiled their responses to create our integrated design assets: outdoor billboards, transit displays, print and digital advertising, social media, and a powerful video that premiered at the 2022 Wake the Giant Music Festival. The campaign’s design system featured the actual written responses as a core graphical element. Set on high-contrast black, this design choice allowed each student’s voice to shine through, even in static applications.

The “Dear Thunder Bay” campaign allowed students and their supporters to share their visions for a better future. Each campaign asset created an inner voice for First Nations students and shed light on the challenges they face. People listened. It generated a positive response community-wide, inspiring hope and prompting introspection within Thunder Bay.

The Team

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