Ucluelet First Nation President Les Doiron believes the RCMP is failing Hitacu.
“We have a serious problem with illegal transportation and selling of alcohol and drugs to our community. Lives are being lost and the community is in crisis,” Doiron said through a statement demanding immediate action from the federal government.
“We require additional officers now at the Ucluelet RCMP detachment, the high tourist season is fast approaching and our community requires action now,”
The Nation is one of five Maa-nulth Treaty First Nations. Roughly 250 of its members live in Hitacu, which is located across the bay from Ucluelet and falls under the Ucluelet RCMP’s jurisdiction.
In July, 2017, the Nation announced a new Community Tripartite Agreement had been struck with the federal government and RCMP that would bring an increased policing presence to Hitacu with a new office set up so that a police officer could be in the community consistently.
Doiron said the RCMP cannot fulfill that agreement because there are not enough local police to cover the area and called on Canada’s Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale to better protect First Nation communities by ensuring Community Tripartite Agreements are adequately funded.
“The local RCMP detachment does not have the manpower to live up to the Community Tripartite Agreement. The agreement states that the community should have a RCMP officer in our community for 90 per cent of [that officer’s] time,” Doiron said. “We honour our word in our Agreements and the other party is treating this Agreement as if it is not worth the paper that it is written on.”
Doiron told the Westerly News that he has repeatedly voiced his frustration over the absence of police in Hitacu and does not believe his concerns have been respected by the RCMP.
“I’ve been beating this thing like a drum for a long time. There’s a lineup of people I’ve been talking to over two years and I’m still no further ahead with the safety and trying to protect our citizens and our people in our Nation…We have virtually nothing as far as safety goes for our people,” he said. “We’re under the understanding that 90 per cent of an officer’s time was going to be in our community…It’s not happening. Period. We do not have anybody policing in our community on a regular basis.”
He said he is meeting with RCMP officials in Port Alberni on Friday and planned to ask why the police officers that serve Hitacu are all based in Ucluelet.
“Having an RCMP member in our community for at least two to six hours a day would be incredible. It really would,” he said.
The two communities are a roughly 20-minute drive away from each other and Doiron wondered what the difference in capacity would be between an officer based in Hitacu having to drive to a situation in Ucluelet and an officer based in Ucluelet driving to a situation in Hitacu.
“The only difference that I see is that we’re an Indian community,” he said.
He added that, outside of emergency response capability, he wants to see the same community policing presence at public events in Hitacu that Ucluelet receives.
“I want our people, our youth and our citizens, to have that relationship with our RCMP,” he said. “Developing that relationship from the daycare right to the elders at community events and all the rest of it. They need to participate and be part of those functions so our people have that safety feeling. Build the rapport.”
Ucluelet RCMP detachment commander Sgt. Steve Mancini declined to comment on the situation in detail, but suggested the citizens of Hitacu are receiving the same level of policing as the people of Ucluelet.
The Westerly News has reached out to Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale’s office for a response to Doiron’s concerns.