By Evelyn Ross
Viviana Ruiz, a Chilean-Canadian woman who is running for town council, has big plans to help the Town of La Ronge and the tri-communities move forward and flourish economically.
Ruiz hopes to bring more tourism to La Ronge, with community events and programming, and wants to work on a plan to reduce gang and criminal activities by providing programs for youth that would keep them out of trouble. She also wants to work with the Lac La Ronge Indian Band and Air Ronge to help the homeless with basic needs and a place to stay.
Viviana Ruiz was born in Chile and raised in Canada. “I grew up in Saskatoon, and my parents are originally from Chile,” she says, as she looks to the side thoughtfully. “I moved here (Saskatoon) with my parents when I was 5 years old. I attended an elementary school and high school there,” she smiles. “Then after high school I went back to Chile, then I came back and then I worked in Wollaston Lake for 2 years as a teacher then I moved to La Ronge.”
“Twenty years ago, I was a single parent for 2 and a half years, so it was just me and my daughter, then I met my husband here.”
Viviana taught at Senator Myles Venne School for a number of years and left her job as a teacher 5 years ago. Since then she has worked at the Northern Lights School Division in La Ronge. “I work as a consultant for Northern Lights School Division 113 and worked in other areas such as gender and sexual diversity and violence risk assessment, suicide prevention training and helping kids graduate, and a few other areas.”
She also volunteers in organizations that involve children and family events. “Other community events are all volunteer based,” she says, “I know that because I actually volunteer for a lot of them and I’m part of a few things that happen in the community.”
She continues: “If people can have things to look forward to, have things to be involved in, then I think that brings hope to keep young people out of trouble sometimes. It’s good for people’s wellbeing and mental health to have all these activities happening within the community and I think that’s really important.”
Ruiz smiles and laughs, as she recalls when she first moved to La Ronge. “I just remember when I moved to La Ronge 20 years ago. In the summer, there would always be something going on. The downtown streets would be closed and there would be music playing and there would be these little street hockey tournaments.”
“I think we need to have large community events where people feel welcome,” she says, sighing and shaking her head. “Unfortunately, we live in a community that has lots of crime and I feel that we don’t need to put up with crime,” she adds, as she has a sip of her juice. “We don’t need to accept gangs and them coming into our community recruiting young people.”
Ruiz shakes her head. “We don’t need to accept people walking around late at night looking through vehicle windows or breaking into vehicles and taking peoples stuff.”
“Gang recruitment seems to be high in the community. Crime has gone up but I think that could be solved and I think part of that is putting responsibility back on families.”
She sighs. “The communities could do so much when it comes to community programming but, at the same time, families need to play their role and provide a safe space for youth in their home so that youth don’t go out looking for another way of belonging and sometimes, that way of belonging is belonging to a gang.”
Ruiz glances out the window in thought. “We need to create an understanding of how important that is and not blame people. But by asking them to take part and to take it on and that might mean providing education by expanding and adding parenting skills programs that are open for community members.”
Ruiz thinks for a minute then continues: “A few years ago there was a community-based organization called ‘Citizens on Patrol’, but again volunteer based.” She clears her throat. “So, providing incentives for organizations like that so that people are being acknowledged for their contributions, talking to RCMP or talking about them (RCMP) increasing their patrols in La Ronge.”
A goal she wants to work with the mayor and council on is to bring more business to La Ronge. “My question is, why aren’t we like Waskesiu? Why don’t we have that type of economic development? Why don’t we have restaurants or small businesses downtown?”
She smiles thinking to herself. “I think that by looking at ideas like tax breaks on our incentives for new businesses to begin, for example, if you want to start a new business in La Ronge right now you would have to pay $175. It’s not thousands of dollars but, still, it’s $175, so maybe providing breaks too like if it’s your first year starting you don’t have to pay for your business license or maybe giving a break on property taxes, just different incentives of that sorts,” she takes a deep breath and smiles again.
“I think being a teacher all these years and volunteering was inspiration for me to run for council.” Ruiz explains. “Because here I am, running around doing all these things when really it should be people in leadership positions inspiring others.”
She smiles. “I might be on council, hopefully, knock on wood, and with a greater responsibility and in a larger role, I may need to give up some volunteer boards that I’m in because I do need to make time for my family.”
She glances out the window and back again, adding, “because the work and life balance is so important and I don’t want to put my family aside.” She thinks for a moment. “I don’t know where the time has gone and I wish I could press rewind because I missed some important moments with my children that I will never get back no matter what.”
Ruiz takes a deep breath then continues: “If you cut your hair it’s gonna grow back, you can have a book or a couch that gets old you can go and get a new one.” She wipes her eyes. “But you can’t go get a new kid.” She laughs, “well I guess you can have more kids but the kids you have now, you can’t press rewind, so it’s so important , and why I urge people to find that work and life balance.”
On November 10, 2020, Viviana Ruiz was elected to the La Ronge Town Council.