Happy Valley-Goose Bay greets justice minister with rally demanding action on transient population

About 40 people attended a rally in Happy Valley-Goose Bay on Thursday to call for solutions to address a growing transient population. (Heidi Atter/CBC - image credit)
About 40 people attended a rally in Happy Valley-Goose Bay on Thursday to call for solutions to address a growing transient population. (Heidi Atter/CBC - image credit)

Residents of Happy Valley-Goose Bay on Thursday marked a visit by the provincial justice and public safety minister's with a rally calling on the province to increase policing to combat illegal activity.

About 40 people gathered outside the central Labrador community's town hall at noon to express their frustrations

"It's public safety for everyone as a whole, the vulnerable population, the community," said Jackie Compton-Hobbs, chair of the town's Housing and Homelessness Coalition.

"We understand that people are struggling with mental health and addictions. We need programs and services. We need something to address the issue. But right now, public safety is out of control," Compton-Hobbs said.

Hogan said Thursday he's been engaging with town council since they contacted him in the spring with concerns about the community's public safety.

"We're here today to meet with community members as well, to meet with business owners, meet with Indigenous groups to discuss these issues, to come up with some potential solutions," said Hogan.

Heidi Atter/CBC
Heidi Atter/CBC

The RCMP, in response to anecdotal reports of social media posts by people saying they no longer plan to report incidents to police, asked the public to continue to call them when needed.

"If we don't know about it, there's nothing we can do about it," said Jennifer Ebert, assistant commissioner and commanding officer for the RCMP in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Police prioritize calls, she said, so a report of an assault has more urgency than a report of loitering, for example. But if a situation escalates, Ebert said, people should call back to update the information so the priority can be reassessed.

"We do try to make it to as many calls for service as we can, but we have to balance," Ebert said.

Rafsan Faruque Jugol/CBC
Rafsan Faruque Jugol/CBC

Ebert said the RCMP have named a new officer in charge of the Labrador district, who should be arriving soon.

The Nunatsiavut government has asked that an Indigenous liaison officer be reinstated in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. Ebert said they're assessing the possibility.

Danny Arsenault/CBC
Danny Arsenault/CBC

At Thursday's rally, MHA Perry Trimper also requested people report incidents to the RCMP. Reporting incidents to police will mean there will be data on increased calls and an increased need for help.

"The problem is escalating. We've seen numbers like we've never experienced," Trimper said. "It's no good not to report it because nothing will get done."

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