Tl’etinqox (Anaham) Chief Joe Alphonse’s desire for a safer community inspired him to host a justice meeting on May 16 with his community, the RCMP, Williams Lake city council members, and youth workers.
“A rash of incidents that happened in our community were the result of Crown Counsel releasing offenders into our community without the support of our leadership,” Alphonse says.
“We’ve got a lot of work ahead,” he says. “We want to move toward establishing protocol to ensure that chief and council are fully aware of people that are dealing with the court system and the stage they are at.”
Alphonse notes that people released by the courts into the community in the future will have to adhere to the terms set out by chief and council.
“We don’t have resources to deal with people that want to continue to rebel.”
In fact, he suggests it would be better for them to stay in larger communities such as Kamloops and Prince George, where resources are in place.
“At the end of the day we can deal with a lot of issues, but it starts with a willingness on everyone’s part to co-operate. I called the meeting to create awareness around that.”
Relationships between First Nations and the RCMP are better than they used to be, Alphonse explains, but there’s still a ways to go and the meeting was a step in the right direction.
Williams Lake RCMP Inspector Warren Brown, advisory NCO Lauren Weare, along with Cpl. Corey Eggen of the Alexis Creek detachment, and Cpl. Mike Hacker attended the meeting. In two weeks Hacker will become the sergeant at Alexis Creek.
Brown says the City of Williams Lake doesn’t have the resources to deal with released offenders either.
“That’s likely why we’re so high on the national crime severity index as well as provincial stats for crime. I share Chief Joe’s frustrations, but again I think the importance, as I see it, is that we’ve recognized that individually we can’t do this alone. Efforts made in the past, although well-intended, have had little impact on the concerns Alphonse has.”
Brown ascertains there needs to be further dialogue with other stakeholders in the criminal justice system, including the judiciary, court services, corrections and Crown.
“Other initiatives we have ongoing right now within the aboriginal and non-aboriginal communities show that we’re all in this together.”
The meeting was long overdue, and while the focus was specific to concerns in Anaham, the template is relevant to other communities, Brown adds.
“I’m optimistic that we can identify some better processes. It’s impractical to think we’re going to get more resources here, I don’t think that will happen. In the absence of that we have to make efforts to maybe look at fresh ways and ideas of working together.”
The plights are the same, he says, and everyone wants safety in their communities.
“The missing piece is once a person has been charged or convicted and is on strict conditions, whose responsibility is that person?” Brown explains, adding he agrees there has to be a better way, but so far there’s only been Bandaids put in place, not solutions.
Williams Lake city councillor Danica Hughes says she was impressed with the “open, honest and frank” discussion that took place during the meeting.
“It was great that people had a boldness to talk about the struggles of the past and ways to change those things.”
Hughes points out there are several good role models among the youths from Anaham, and that fact needs to be celebrated.
“Ultimately people are coming together because they care about all youths, even those that are struggling with the law.
I thought the meeting was very respectful and gave people the opportunity to bring their ideas to the table,” Hughes says.