Lo­cal crime de­serves lo­cal po­lice

Stanstead Journal - - FORUM -

Que­bechas de­cided to get rid of all mu­nic­i­pal po­lice corps in towns with pop­u­la­tions of less than 100,000 peo­ple; nearby this would in­clude Ma­gog. While the mea­sures in Bill 31 are ‘vol­un­tary’ the in­tent is clear: no more small town po­lice forces. To re­mind all of the ‘vol­un­tary’ as­pect of the bill, the Pub­lic se­cu­rity Min­istry has told the Sher­brooke po­lice force that it will have to dis­band its Swat team. This news­pa­per op­poses this and so should you. Let’s be frank. The Sûreté du Québec is un­able to prop­erly po­lice our re­gion and most re­gions in Que­bec for that mat­ter. When the com­mand­ing of­fi­cer of the Mem­phré­m­a­gog de­tach­ment ad­mits pub­licly that none of his of­fi­cers live in our MRC, we know that some­thing is gravely amiss in the ad­min­is­tra­tion of jus­tice at its ba­sic level. We can hardly blame him, or the Sûreté. Once again, it’s the rot­ten fruit of the so called Char­ter of Rights show­ing its true colours. In this case a de­ci­sion by a tri­bunal say­ing in so many words that the town of Montreal could not force a fire­man to live in Montreal! Lo­cally, we saw the re­sults of this when the Stanstead fire­fight­ing force was di­rected by a chief who lived more or less 25 kilo­me­tres from here, or 80 kilo­me­tres if you are not a bird or lack a helicopter to travel to a fire!

There seems to be a school of thought at the Sûreté that some­how a po­lice­man or po­lice­woman doesn’t have to live among those he must serve and pro­tect, that you can work as a po­lice­man as you would if you were a plum­ber. Yet chances are that your plum­ber lives closer to you than a Sûreté of­fi­cer. It’s shift work at its best: you punch in in Sher­brooke, for the time be­ing, look at your as­sign­ment and then take the car and drive to Stanstead or, bet­ter still, to Man­sonville! Won­der which town has the high­est level of crim­i­nal­ity?

Now there is more in the life of peo­ple than crime; there is the rather ab­stract con­cept of peace and tran­quil­ity, of in­ci­vil­ity and delin­quency.

Let’s pass over the sim­ple fact that a lot of us no longer even care about reporting petty crime. Af­ter all, why should we when the po­lice tell you that they can­not send an of­fi­cer to talk to you and that your in­sur­ance pol­icy will go up ren­der­ing the process of reporting a crime not only use­less but cost­ing you money in the long run?

The prob­lem is not with the Sûreté du Québec, it is with the way that we have de­cided to po­lice our­selves. First, as cheap as pos­si­ble; this is what brought the SQ ev­ery­where in Québec a quar­ter of a cen­tury ago. These small po­lice forces were too costly and un­able to pro­vide, with the re­sources that they had, a real po­lice force, and the SQ was cheaper. So we are to blame first.

We urge you to call your lo­cal MNA to tell him that you op­pose Bill 31. But we also urge you to tell him that you want the Que­bec govern­ment to hold pub­lic hear­ings across the prov­ince to hear what we want in a po­lice or­gan­i­sa­tion to pro­tect us. We may learn a cou­ple of un­pleas­ant truths, the first that it would cost a lot more to get the po­lice pro­tec­tion that we want. It may well be that the Sûreté is the best or­gan­i­sa­tion to serve our needs, that with some changes to its col­lec­tive agree­ment, it could force of­fi­cers to live around those that they are charged to pro­tect, but we are sure of one thing, this would not come free of charge. Though it is not my habit to do so, I would like to re­spond to a let­ter to the editor pub­lished in the Stanstead Jour­nal’s Novem­ber 16th edi­tion which was writ­ten by Mrs. France Bo­nen­fant and Mrs. Louise Souligny con­cern­ing our Town Hall and its lo­ca­tion. The let­ter ex­pressed a va­ri­ety of emo­tions - rang­ing from sur­prise, anger, con­cern and in­credulity - over the fact that our Town Coun­cil has, since the spring of this year, been study­ing its op­tions con­cern­ing the lo­ca­tion of Stanstead’s Town Hall. Though it is cor­rect to state that I am en­thu­si­as­tic about the pos­si­bil­ity of such a move, it is mis­lead­ing to present the case as though ei­ther a rec­om­men­da­tion or a de­ci­sion con­cern­ing the mat­ter have been made and coun­cil is some­how not be­ing forth­right about its in­ten­tions. As has been stated un­equiv­o­cally at al­most ev­ery coun­cil meet­ing since the idea was first dis­cussed, no de­fin­i­tive ac­tion – if any - will be taken on said mat­ter be­fore a) coun­cil mem­bers can make an in­formed de­ci­sion and b) cit­i­zens have had an op­por­tu­nity to par­tic­i­pate and voice their thoughts and or con­cerns, in a for­mal pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion. As in­formed and con­cerned cit­i­zens un­doubt­edly know, size­able ex­pen­di­tures are re­quired for the Town Hall’s up­keep and main­te­nance at its cur­rent lo­ca­tion. As ac­tion in this mat­ter will im­mi­nently be re­quired, it struck coun­cil mem­bers as ir­re­spon­si­ble to ap­prove spend­ing on the build­ing prior to ex­am­in­ing all rea­son­able op­tions that might of­fer a bet­ter re­turn on such a use of pub­lic funds. A quick sur­vey of pub­licly owned build­ings re­vealed that the one lo­cated at 10, Phelps street, might be a good can­di­date for our Town Hall as it is a) owned out­right by the town, b) cen­trally lo­cated, c) bet­ter suited - both in form and func­tion - to Town busi­ness, and d) a build­ing re­flect­ing Stanstead’s proud her­itage. In or­der to make an in­formed de­ci­sion and as re­spon­si­ble ste­wards of pub­lic funds, coun­cil mem­bers re­quested hard data con­cern­ing ex­penses that would be in­curred if the Town Hall ei­ther re­mained at its cur­rent lo­ca­tion or was to move to the build­ing lo­cated at 10, Phelps street. As the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion had al­ready or­dered and re­ceived a study con­cern­ing ex­penses to be in­curred by changes to the façade of our cur­rent Town Hall, it seems un­wise to pro­ceed fur­ther in the mat­ter with­out first ob­tain­ing sim­i­lar in­for­ma­tion on the build­ing sit­u­ated at 10, Phelps street. As I do con­sider this an im­por­tant pol­icy mat­ter, if only be­cause ex­pen­di­tures on Town Hall can ei­ther be viewed as a nec­es­sary ex­pense or as an in­vest­ment in our col­lec­tive fu­ture, I wel­come Mrs. Bo­nen­fant and Mrs. Souligny’s con­cern on this mat­ter. I do how­ever have se­ri­ous reser­va­tions about the man­ner in which they at­tempted to make the case for their po­si­tion. I think it is a given that all of us are con­cerned about Stanstead, its fi­nances and the well-be­ing and fu­ture of its cit­i­zens. Un­like Mrs. Bo­nen­fant’s and Mrs. Souligny’s con­clu­sions that Stanstead­ers are un­con­cerned and ap­a­thetic, I am of the opinion that the vast ma­jor­ity of them sim­ply trust their elected of­fi­cial’s judge­ment on this mat­ter and are con­fi­dent they can be made ac­count­able for any breach of this trust through the demo­cratic process which elected them to of­fice in the first place.

Best re­gards,

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