Interview: My mom, on moving back to Winnipeg after 20 years away

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.

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8 Comments

Filed under Family, Interview

8 responses to “Interview: My mom, on moving back to Winnipeg after 20 years away

  1. I love this. I’m sure there are other stories about moving away from Winnipeg and then coming back. I know other family members who have done it from the West coast.

    I live in the East convenient to Baltimore MD, Washington D.C. and Philadelphia PA. Here crime that is gang related is different culturally. Here the gangs might leave you alone since you usually do not represent a problem to the business at hand. What I mean is that you know who they are and you may have found yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time so get your business elsewhere or you will get the business.

    The organized crime here has somewhat evolved from random acts of violence and thugs trying to make a name for themselves in some gang hierarchy. This is what you likely encounter more often in a place like Winnipeg. Population density, demographics, culture and economy would be considered in a study.

    Don’t get this wrong…there still is random violence here but as the answers state we do get to know where and what time is right to be walking around a particular place. Just last weekend we were at a beautiful place commercially promoted to children and families that is just a couple hundred feet from daily violent crime. We conducted our business at the appropriate time and left.

    I left Winnipeg too. I may never return to live but it will always be home. I hope for a greater future in Winnipeg. It will be fun watching from here and visiting from time to time. In the summer months. With mosquito repellant.
    Sean R

    • Thanks for your thoughts! All I know of Baltimore is from “The Wire,” so my impression is probably a little off, but still, I thinks it’s interesting that Winnipeg can be compared in some way. In so many places, though, it’s all about being aware, right? I’m sure Toronto, Vancouver, and New York are similar (I think of those cities as very safe but with common sense no go areas).

  2. Yes. Situational awareness is a part of safety. I heard recently that, “The Wire”, is very close to how it happens currently and historically…hmm. I live here and haven’t watched that show for one minute. I actually heard more about opportunities to be a background extra during the height of it’s popularity…ha ha.

  3. donna

    i know exactly what it feels like to have grown up in Winnipeg in the 70’s and feeling safe there and moving away in the 90’s and now i never feel safe there in the downtown area. i don’t even feel safe during the day. i always feel safe in Toronto. it is never an issue. sometimes i get home and walk a block at midnight, but i don’t feel unsafe. i never have felt that way here, i have gone back to Winnipeg and have at time forgot about all that and went for a walk and suddenly felt very uncomfortable at the cold, unfriendly people and i get a bit shocked because i’m used to friendly, relaxed, mellow Toronto, people just live together and really don’t care how you dress, talk, walk or live really. every one is just busy… have a great day.

  4. Floyd Nimrod

    Winnipeg needs to stop using fines as a sources of revenue. Just increase the taxes if you’re gonna increase the taxes. Quit frickin’ nickel-and-diming the citizens to death with every thing from parking tickets to photoradar to a goddamn $300 fine cause your dog isn’t licensed or you don’t have an address on your house in the back lane. I heard you can even get a fine for driving by and splashing a pedestrian with a puddle when it’s raining.

    There’s only so much money a family has to pay their bills, buy food, and try to have a few nice things now and then. If they’re being treated like a walking ATM by a mayor who can’t balance the books properly without punishing people for living in his City, you’re gonna see the city slowly decay until there’s nothing left by criminals and welfare recipients. That’s already happened downtown and in the North and West end. Just watch what happens in the next 10 years. The only safe place to live will be in the south. Everyone else will have fled or barricaded themselves in their homes after 6 p.m.

  5. I’m still somewhat surprised that there’s no mention of Osborne Village in this article.

  6. The Analyst

    Still somewhat surprised there’s no mention of Osborne Village in this article.

  7. JSS

    I’m a born and raised Winnipegger who left for Edmonton, around 10 years ago. I really like Winnipeg. My family and friends live there. I left because I was laid off from my technical/professional job, and spent eight months ‘pounding the pavement’ looking for another job. I got caught in a bad job market in Winnipeg at the time. I applied for many jobs, but hardly any response. I tried desperately to get a government job in Winnipeg, because I figured that it’s steady, and pay and benefits are pretty good compared to the private sector. In this favorable situation, I could have continued to live in Winnipeg, and raise my family in the ‘Peg. But it proved to be really hard to get, and I didn’t have any connections in the public sector that could have helped me get my foot in the door. Connections really do help.
    So I applied for jobs in Alberta, mostly in Calgary and Edmonton. I landed a few job offers in Edmonton, so we left.

    For the first five years after I left Winnipeg, I felt refreshed to leave. The pay was around 35% higher in my field, and the cost of living at the time was ball-park similar to Winnipeg. Relatively close to the Rockies, and a day drive from the West Coast.

    After five years, I kept thinking back about Winnipeg, and how enjoyable and easy my life was there. Here is a mid-sized city, laid back people, great restaurants, nearby beaches, Forks, Assiniboine Park, Whiteshell and Lake of the Woods nearby. I thought to myself – I wouldn’t mind moving back. My dilemma – I’m now 40 years old, good job, a couple of kids, spouse working, etc. Now it’s hard to move back. I’d have to adjust to a pay cut, and now the house prices in Winnipeg have gone up dramatically, which doesn’t help. Economically, it would be a tough move. Also, my friends in Winnipeg have all moved on as well.

    So, here in my little mind, I keep my great memories of Winnipeg together, like a photo album. I am also still a bit bitter that I couldn’t secure a good job with a good employer in Winnipeg, during the eight months I was out of work. Otherwise, I’d still be in the ‘Peg…

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