The Thunder Bay Multicultural Association was formed in 1972 by a number of various community ethnocultural groups whose objective was to establish a body which would encourage and facilitate co-operation among ethnic organizations in promoting the concept of multiculturalism. Initially, the name was the Thunder Bay Council of Ethnic Organizations. The present name was adopted upon incorporation in 1976. The Association is a non-profit organization under the management of a volunteer Board of Directors composed of elected representatives from ethnic groups in Thunder Bay. Through a staff of front-line workers, services are provided to the community in the following areas:
- immigrant settlement including referral, information and orientation for job preparation, housing, education, Citizenship, etc.
- interpretation and translation in over 40 languages for documents/certificates, medical appointments/emergencies, immigration, etc.
- community programs for recent newcomers including English as a Second Language, Citizenship Preparation, Drivers Education Preparation, Community Development, etc.
- cross-cultural/race relations information on cultural adjustments of newcomers, etc.
- language instruction for newcomers to Canada assessments to rate English language levels according to the Canadian Language Benchmark assessment
- matching newcomers with volunteers to assist with adjustment to Canadian society.
In 1987 the Association purchased the old Court Street fire hall. The original hall was built in 1906 as a brick two-story structure designed for horse-drawn fire wagons with access provided by four round arched wooden doors. Over the years the facade had been transformed with the addition of enormous fire doors for newer fire fighting equipment. TBMA commissioned a local architect to renovate the existing structure to conform to an office environment on the second floor and a community hall on the first floor, yet retain the basic exterior design of the old fire hall.
The renovated structure has approximately 4,000 sq. ft. of office and meeting space as well as a 2,000 sq. ft. community hall available for community use. The Centre was designated as a heritage site on February 17, 1996.
The Association also works with a wide variety of local groups and organizing committees to bring a multicultural flare to area festivals and events. Ethnocultural groups in Thunder Bay have a long history of participation in the City's cultural life. Many of these groups are well established and have made, and continue to make, significant contributions to our community enriching our cultural heritage. Folklore Festival is an annual festival presented in Thunder Bay since 1972 providing an opportunity for ethnocultural groups and organizations to celebrate their cultural heritage through song, dance, crafts and cuisine.
Although there are a number of organizations staging different festivals, Folklore Festival is unique due to the nature of the product particularly in the area of ethnocultural arts. Over 1,000 volunteers assist in planning, performing, preparation of site decorations, backdrops, stage, food and exhibit booths, promotions, selling freshments, organizing games and features in the children's area and maintenance. The Association co-ordinates the annual event which attracts more than 9,000 people every year. Folklore Festival's main objective is to provide the City of Thunder Bay with a major festival involving Canadians of many different heritages.
It further attempts to facilitate the understanding between different peoples in the community by way of fostering and promoting cross-cultural and intercultural understanding. The Festival also enhances the City's arts and cultural life and encourages regional tourism. The Festival has become a highly successful and visible element in the local community as well as within surrounding areas. The Festival has been a catalyst in the development of other arts related festivals.