The delegation from Terrace had a “positive” meeting with provincial cabinet ministers during their visit to Victoria to discuss the disruption brought about by crime and prolific offenders, says Mayor Carol Leclerc.
“They were very much listening to what we said and I felt very positive that we were taken seriously and that they are going to figure out how they can help get these prolific offenders off out of the downtown, off the streets,” said Leclerc of the March 31 meeting with municipal affairs minister Nathan Cullen, attorney general and housing minister David Eby and public safety minister Mike Farnworth.
With Leclerc was councillor Sean Bujtas and city chief administrative officer Kris Boland. They were joined by Williams Lake Mayor Walt Cobb whose municipality is facing the same issues as Terrace.
The delegation highlighted the failings of the justice system as it affects cities such as Terrace and backed up that position with letters from local businesses and organizations.
The ministers recognized that Terrace serves a hub just as does Prince George and Kelowna who face similar issues of street crime, thefts and public disorder.
Hearing about severe cases, where specific prolific offenders are back on the streets after multiple arrests, Eby told the Terrace delegation to reach out to his office directly, Leclerc said.
The delegation also highlighted the need for more senior Crown counsel lawyers in Terrace, as it is these lawyers who approve of criminal charges.
The province said it is looking at incentives to attract senior prosecutors to move to smaller locations in rural B.C.
Leclerc said they asked Eby for Crown counsel to be part of Terrace situation table and to look at adding specialized courts like the Victoria Integrated Court that combines justice, health and social services for offenders.
The delegation asked for more money to hire municipal public safety officers.
“We told them we have twice the RCMP cases than the provincial average, so if we were able to get funding for community safety officers, we would be able to have them on different shifts in the downtown and that would be taking weight off the shoulders of the RCMP,” Leclerc said.
The delegation also asked the ministers to support and fund a Northwest First Nation Alliance proposed detox/wellness facility which has been earmarked for Terrace because of its central location.
“They [ministers took our asks and they didn’t argue with us,” said Leclerc.
“They recognized it’s not just a Terrace problem, but it is happening everywhere — Fort St. John, Williams Lake, Quesnel, Penticton, Kamloops, Maple Ridge, Nanaimo — so we’re hoping that we’ve started something here.”
Leclerc said the cabinet ministers have agreed to discuss Terrace’s requests and get back to them within two to three weeks.