In 1989, when first stationed as a police officer in Nanaimo, I was assigned to the Downtown Core / South Zone. I worked with those experiencing addictions, mental health issues and homelessness. Nanaimo had its problems, but no-one could have predicted the situation we face as a community today. As complex as the issue is, we must work towards solutions that will bring our community together and not further divide it. I would like to clarify that I fully understand the difference between the unhoused experiencing mental health, substance abuse and poverty issues, and those who are wreaking havoc and committing crime in our community.
In my opinion, our community needs to understand trauma. For example, our educators need to understand trauma in order to assist our students. The medical profession needs to address trauma prior to prescribing medications. Law enforcement and policy makers at all levels needs to understand trauma while addressing crime and protecting the rights of all citizens.
I n 2020, the Nanaimo Homeless Coalition completed the “Point in Time” homeless count. In that count, 71% of the folks spoken with were from Nanaimo. 29% were from other areas of Canada. The number one reason for being homeless was insufficient income resulting in no ability to pay rent. Some were still working, but due to hours being cut, rents being raised etc., they were unable to meet their needs. Thus homelessness, and in some cases that meant substance usage to deflect the reality of their circumstances. I WANT TO HELP THOSE FOLKS WHO WANT HELP.
Having said all of the above, we must also address crime in our city. The apparent shift in the Judicial System, whether due to a shift in provincial and federal policy or COVID, is a detriment to law abiding citizens. The blatant acts of crime and bizarre behaviour we are experiencing is costing our citizens financially while inhibiting the general sense of safety and well-being. When businesses suffer, families suffer. I WANT TO HELP OUR COMMUNITY MEMBERS.
Safety accommodates healing. This applies to all of us. In my opinion, investing in the safety of the unhoused contributes to the safety of all. While housing is the responsibility of the Provincial and Federal Governments, I support our Municipal Government designating city owned properties to the province to be used to build homes that meet the needs of our homeless. As a city, we can
amend or create by-laws in support of tiny homes or suitable structures that fit within city lots. The homeless are all over our city; north and south. These small communities to assist our homeless should be incorporated throughout Nanaimo with a view to blending in. Further, separate units should be on site to accommodate supporting agencies.
I do not support complexes such as Labieux Road and 250 Terminal Avenue. In my opinion, the lack of accountability (enforceable rules) placed unacceptable burden to surrounding homes.
Finally, I accept that we cannot help or please everyone, but I HOPE TO USE MY PROFESSIONAL, PERSONAL AND COMMUNITY EXPERIENCE TO TRY.
Public Safety is a complex and crucial topic. Legal scholars define public safety as the protection of the general public and reference police officers and firefighters as Public Safety Officers. Social scholars regularly reference “safety” as a fundamental need in determining our quality of life. As community members, we generally refer to “safety” as the safe physical and emotional well-being of ourselves, our families and neighbours, and the protection of our property.
Our Criminal Justice System is rapidly becoming less and less effective. Evidence of this appears every day as criminals with multiple offences and failures to appear in court are not being held accountable. If elected, I will wholeheartedly support strengthening the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) to lobby the BC Attorney General and the Federal government for change. I believe my work experience has given me the tools to assist the UBCM to do this work. The only way to effect change is to work together for a common goal. I would also hope to engage the community to become more engaged in the Justice Process. Mayor and Council, in my opinion, needs to provide outlets to include our community in our affairs, particularly our safety.
As a former police officer, I observed the justice system when offenders were held responsible for their actions. Today the justice system is soft, and we are below the standard of what most of us believe is acceptable. As community members, we understand the effects of trauma and the routes folks take to get themselves through it.
However, there must be boundaries on what is acceptable for the average community member to shoulder. Recently an individual found guilty of vandalizing city property was sentenced to writing a letter of apology. The damage was done, and taxpayers paid the price of cleanup. Having said the above, we must also note the difference between the stealing of food to sell to make money for substances, to stealing food to feed one’s family. Common sense goes a long way.
The 4 pillars of our municipal government are police, fire, water, and sewage. As our city grows, so does the need to ensure the city remains committed to the safety and well-being of our citizens. The new City Community Plan recently released has five major goals for city for the next 20 years. Public Safety is not one of those goals.
Another area of concern is that The Privacy Act controls the ways in which personal information may be collected, used, and disclosed. In days gone by, community agencies worked together to solve individual and community problems. Today the act prevents the distribution of pertinent information and community agencies cannot share information. This act needs to be amended.
If elected, I will do everything in my power to respect and support the rights of contributing community members and taxpayers while supporting community agencies to assist those in need. As a police officer and throughout my years of volunteerism, I had extensive partnerships with many social agencies ranging from the John Howard Society to MCFD and various people serving agencies. I believe those connections, along with my ability to make decisions based on facts, will assist me to serve Nanaimo well.
Finally, I respect and support the need to prepare for the future, but I am very much about repairing what is broken today. I repeat “common sense goes a long way” and if elected, I will bring that approach with me.