Happy Valley-Goose Bay's problems won't be solved by police alone, says RCMP commissioner

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki, pictured in a 2018 photo, says Happy Valley-Goose Bay's problems are complex and won't be solved with simple solutions. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press - image credit)
RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki, pictured in a 2018 photo, says Happy Valley-Goose Bay's problems are complex and won't be solved with simple solutions. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press - image credit)

Two days after Happy Valley-Goose Bay residents rallied to call for increased policing in the community, the RCMP's commissioner — visiting the Labrador town for a fundraiser — said the complex issues at hand aren't going to be solved by police alone.

Commissioner Brenda Lucki, in Happy Valley-Goose Bay on Saturday and Sunday for an annual RCMP fundraiser, said homelessness, addictions and mental health issues need to be tackled with a broad range of resources, including social services.

"We don't want to criminalize homelessness and we don't want to criminalize addiction. So we have to be bold in our solutions and work with the community. And I think that's where we really have to focus our efforts," Lucki told CBC News on Sunday.

About 80 people rallied Friday in the E.J. Broomfield Arena parking lot to call for increased policing and better social services. The group called for change to address an estimated 80 people living in the town's trail system.

Steve Bruce/CBC
Steve Bruce/CBC

When asked about the situation, Lucki initially deferred to Jennifer Ebert, assistant RCMP commissioner and commanding officer of the police force in Newfoundland and Labrador RCMP. Ebert said she arrived in town after the rally but over the weekend went on a ride-along with officers in the community and attended a call to the town's homeless shelter to get a "first-hand view" of the situation.

"So I can truly understand the issues for the citizens of the community but also understand from a policing perspective what's possible for us to do and what's not possible for us to do," she said.

Ebert said the RCMP is increasing their presence and patrols in the trails, Ebert said, to address the issues raised by community members and to show the transient population that officers are present.

"That doesn't translate to higher enforcement because a lot of the issues that are facing the transient population, as you probably know, are incredibly complex and most of them are not going to be addressed through police enforcement."

Ebert said they hope to work with community partners to address the underlying issues. Lucki agreed, saying the issues of homelessness, addictions and mental health issues cannot solely have a policing solution.

Social services need to be engaged with housing and education and there may be lessons to learn from other Canadian regions dealing with similar issues, Lucki said.

Rafsan Faruque Jugol/CBC
Rafsan Faruque Jugol/CBC

The additional patrols are being done with the support of staff from outside the central Labrador region, Ebert said. It's a short-term solution and the RCMP are constantly assessing when they can bring in additional resources, she said.

"Now, this is something that I don't know how long we'll be able to maintain if there's other pressures that come up across the province. But for right now we're continuing to maintain these because from what we're hearing it is making a small difference."

Last week, provincial Justice Minister John Hogan said he'd be in Happy Valley-Goose Bay this week. Ebert said she'll be coming back with him, to listen to people's concerns.

Lucki came to Labrador for the RCMP's regimental ball — an annual RCMP fundraiser for community programming — and met community members and RCMP employees. Morale seems "very, very positive" in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, she said.

"It's a very busy detachment but they're very proud to be members of the community and help keep the people of Happy Valley-Goose Bay safe."

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