Local crime deserves local police
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.