On the cusp of paradise, being an RCMP member is both a challenge and a reward.
A 45-minute ride-along from Ahousaht, British Columbia to Tofino with the RCMP (en route from a Junior Achievement volunteer session at the school in Ahousaht) means bouncing along on the waves in the Ahousaht police boat, a 28-foot Titan rigid hull inflatable, complete with flashing blue light, radar, GPS and medical equipment.
“We go across here when waves are crashing across the top and there’s no visibility,” said Const. Mike Therriault.
The police boat doesn’t get used every day (Tofino and Ucluelet detachments each have their own boat), but it’s essential for transport – bringing officers in for relief, or taking someone in custody out to Port Alberni. It does double duty with the occasional medical transport. Journeys across Browning Passage often include sightings of porpoises, whales or sea lions.
Ahousaht RCMP is a satellite detachment of Tofino, where Sgt. Jim Anderson is their supervisor, and where their administration work is done.
The Ahousaht RCMP members may get a request to help in Tofino or Ucluelet for event coverage. They also travel to Hot Springs and Hesquiaht as needed.
A stay in the close-knit community of Ahousaht on the rugged West Coast of Vancouver Island. is a two-year post, shorter than most RCMP postings. They get some skepticism from area residents once in a while, said Const. Dave Fish.
“Are you guys being punished?” a resident asked him.
“It’s a choice,” said Fish, who is bound next for a post in Telkwa in northern B.C., where he’s looking forward to more small-town policing.
“I like working in Ahousaht, in a small environment. You’re not overwhelmed with people and management and all that – we do our own thing,” he said. “I just find the people friendly here.”
Isolated and beautiful, with scenic beaches and trails, Ahousaht’s wild location presents its own policing challenges.
“There were six wolves in town this morning,” said Fish.
“Most of (the calls) are reporting crimes against persons – assaults, things of that nature … Most of the calls we get, particularly at night, involve alcohol,” Fish said.
Most calls come between midnight and 10 a.m., and the cycle may also coincide with month’s end, when checks come in.
The regional court dockets are often crowded, sometimes disproportionately, with cases out of Ahousaht.
That said, there are big city problems that can’t hide in Ahousaht, and aren’t seen there, the RCMP members said.
“The Ahousaht are very proud people and they look after their people. In my two years here, I’ve never once seen hard drugs of any kind …There’s a little bit of pot, you’d see that anywhere. I credit the people of Ahousaht that look after their own community. As a community, they wouldn’t stand for it,” Therriault said.
“Some of the social problems that revolve around alcohol most definitely are challenges, but those exist anywhere,” he said.
Therriault brought his wife and kids to live in the remote First Nations community. They transferred from Ontario, and Ahousaht was Therriault’s opportunity to return to B.C. The family is bound for Nanaimo next, where Mike is taking a plainclothes post. Ahousaht has been a good adventure for his family, Mike said.
“They love the outdoors – they’re at that age where it’s still exciting. The school is incredible, the atmosphere is good – it’s very positive,” he said.
In grade 7, his oldest son got to make his mother a traditional drum, which the Therriault family proudly hang on the living room wall.
“They got to experience a different culture for two years.”
“It’s like paradise out here,” said Therriault.
“People pay thousands of dollars to go on vacation where I live. I came across some Australian hikers the other day, my family and I were down at the beach having a bonfire. They were astounded that we live there. It’s true – we live in paradise,” he said.