Evidence of meeting #131 for Public Safety and National Security in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was rcmp.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Jim Eglinski  Yellowhead, CPC
Christina Johnson  Executive Director, Southeastern Alberta Sexual Assault Response Committee
Trevor Tychkowsky  President, Alberta Provincial Rural Crime Watch Association
Alicia Bedford  As an Individual
Geraldine Dixon  As an Individual
Edouard Maurice  As an Individual
Jessica Maurice  As an Individual

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Ms. Moore, you have seven minutes, please.

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Ms. Ashton will begin.

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, MB

Thank you very much.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Welcome to the committee, Ms. Ashton.

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, MB

Thank you, Chair.

I'll be sharing my time with my colleague, Ms. Moore.

I want to thank all of the witnesses for coming today, the Maurices, Ms. Bedford and Ms. Dixon, who are joining us from Thompson, my hometown as well.

I really appreciate your taking the time to explain what happened to you, Ms. Bedford. It is a story that I know you've told many times and that has really gripped people in our community and across Manitoba.

I think it's also very important that at the national level we hear from you about what you went through and, frankly, what our community is going through when it comes to trying to get help in what could possibly be a life-or-death situation.

You've alluded to some of the crime statistics, and the pressures on the 911 system. It's been indicated to us that the RCMP are short-staffed in Thompson and in communities across the north, The Pas, Flin Flon and elsewhere, in terms of servicing not just our community but also the surrounding region.

How important do you think it is for the federal government and for all governments to invest and ensure that there is proper RCMP support or increased RCMP presence, including more officers in Thompson?

5:10 p.m.

As an Individual

Alicia Bedford

I'd like to see the stat where, as was said, Alberta falls below the line, and I'd like to see where Manitoba falls as well, because I don't think, from our kind of experience and just the stories we've been told from people telling their personal stories....

You always think it's an isolated incident until you're put in something like this. Then people feel obligated to come and tell you their stories. We have heard horrific stories from people. I was on hold for four minutes and 29 seconds. I urge any one of you to put on a timer, sit quietly with nothing to do for four minutes and 29 seconds, and imagine how long that feels. Then have somebody break your windows and doors while hearing your children scream. Now imagine how much longer that seems.

I know the RCMP are stretched thin in our town. I know it's a thankless job. I know they are stressed. I know they have community safety officers, who I imagine are there to alleviate some of the stress, but they work during the day. I don't know a whole lot of criminals who do their jobs during the day. I would imagine that most of it happens at night, when the CSOs unfortunately are not working. I just think whatever they are doing right now is not working. The numbers they have aren't sufficient. Something needs to be done.

In terms of answering these questions, we're just two people from Thompson. We don't know who to go see. We don't know who to talk to. We just know that something needs to be done. That's why we rely on the people in your position to help us.

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, MB

I thank you for your courage in coming forward. It can't be easy to relive the traumatic events you and your family went through.

You talked about the petition. Can you tell us a bit more about how much community support you've received and what you're hearing from people when it comes to the need for the 911 service and of course ensuring that the RCMP are properly staffed to respond to our communities' needs?

5:10 p.m.

As an Individual

Alicia Bedford

We started a petition just to see. We were having people come to us and just tell their stories. We figured we would start this petition so that we could bring it to light and see just how many people we could get. Within a day we had hundreds of signatures. I'm not exactly sure where we're at right now. We had local businesses requesting to have the petition put in their businesses.

They're spread out around town. They're everywhere. People are talking about it. If you go on Facebook, people are talking about the incident. We were at our local Tim Hortons having coffee, and one of the staff members was going around with the petition. They had no idea who we were.

People want it, and it's needed. Hopefully, by bringing awareness.... We plan to bring it to the next city council meeting, to the new mayor and council. We hope it will have the backing of the city.

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, MB

Thank you very much.

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Maurice and Ms. Maurice, I understand that this incident must have been extremely difficult for you. I also live in a rural area where we don't often see police cars on the road, although we probably see them more frequently than in your area. You were alone with your daughter, and this type of situation can be extremely frightening. There usually isn't much time to think about what to do in these cases.

Do you think that one solution could be to review the response priorities?

These priorities are often based on data for urban communities. For example, a break and enter isn't ranked among the highest priorities.

Should the response priorities be reviewed to ensure that the time frame for reaching the location where a break and enter has been reported is less than two or three hours, since the circumstances at the time of the emergency call are unknown?

5:15 p.m.

As an Individual

Jessica Maurice

I don't think a review of priorities will make much difference when there isn't enough coverage in the first place. Part of the reason they were unable to come for two hours is that they had so few staff on duty. As these ladies were saying, until 6 a.m. or 7 a.m. there is only one police officer on duty. He had to go to the hospital with the injured person and then wasn't able to come out to this property. As well, the RCMP need to have two members to attend to a call with firearms, which makes complete sense, but there just weren't enough staff on duty to respond.

Until you have enough coverage, there is no point in addressing priorities, I think.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Ms. Sahota, please, for seven minutes.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

Mr. Chair, I will start by saying that I'm a little disappointed by the rant that Ms. Stubbs just gave.

Trying to politicize this issue I don't think is the right way to get to any solutions. It's not a Liberal problem, a Conservative problem or an NDP problem. It's something that we need to work on together on all sides of the aisle so that we can help the people here. The Conservatives were in power for 10 years. When it comes to these matters, the same Criminal Code laws existed then that exist now. It's quite rich to say that breaking and entering didn't happen under the Conservative rule but all of a sudden is happening under the Liberal government. That is not what we're here to do.

I'm glad that this private member's motion has come forward to this committee so we can figure out how we can work together to solve these issues.

It's quite atrocious, I think, Ms. Dixon and Ms. Bedford, what you've had to go through.

I sympathize with you as well, Mr. and Mrs. Maurice.

I know that safety is really important for every individual, regardless of where they live. Once somebody has been through your stuff, you can't regain that sense of safety again.

I'll start with you, Ms. Bedford and Ms. Dixon. What is it that you think, because I know that funding.... The response rate in a lot of rural communities, as we're hearing right now, is quite slow. The Manitoba government, from what I've seen, has increased community safety funding by only 1.9%, by about the rate of inflation. Do you think there has been enough of a priority put in place by the province to have policing and to put money into these areas?

Do you think more can be done? If so—I know that you don't know where to go to get those supports—what have you been calling for so far and what work have you tried to do?

5:15 p.m.

As an Individual

Geraldine Dixon

We want to try to get our own dispatch centre. We are the hub of the north. Right now when you make a call, you're sent down to Winnipeg. Everybody knows that when you're in an emergency situation every second counts, so when you finally get through.... It's not just us who have been put on hold. The hold seems to be an ongoing issue here in terms of how long you're put on hold, and when you finally get through, then it's the questions.

Winnipeg is not aware and does not know what Thompson is or even where it's located. If we tell them that there's an incident, that there's a fight or someone is trying to break into a building, they don't know. You have to try to give them the street number and where it's located and all of that. You're wasting time, the time during which you're trying to answer these questions about what the address is and whatever.

We're saying that if we had our own centre here, the RCMP would be able to respond immediately, in the sense that they would know directly where to go. If you say there's an incident at the post office.... I've lived in Thompson for 45 years. I don't know the address of the post office, but our RCMP know where it's at. There's the difference. That's what everybody's frustrated with. It's the dealing with the system.

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

I think that's a great solution and a workable one. I know that the different levels of government have to figure out a way to work to achieve that for you.

Ms. Bedford, were you going to say something?

5:20 p.m.

As an Individual

Alicia Bedford

You're asking if enough has been done. I don't think that at this point enough has been done. Clearly, if we still have people on hold for 11 minutes, or for four and a half minutes like I was, I don't think enough is being done.

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

Okay.

I'll turn my questioning to you, Mr. and Mrs. Maurice. You mentioned that you felt that the burden to.... The police are teaching people other methods of keeping their property safe. A fence—you're right—would seem kind of cumbersome. Security cameras, other things.... They're trying to teach people safety mechanisms to keep their properties safe. You said that this was too burdensome. Is that correct?

5:20 p.m.

As an Individual

Jessica Maurice

No. I don't think there's anything wrong with gates and security systems, but I don't think the burden should be solely on the property owners. I think it's the burden of the justice system to make sure that repeat offenders aren't coming back and doing more crimes.

5:20 p.m.

As an Individual

Edouard Maurice

Why are we having to put out tens of thousands of dollars just to deter the criminals? When we drive down our roads now, we can't stop in and talk to our neighbours because there are gates on every single yard that we used to drive into.

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

You've also been raised to take proactive measures and learn safety skills when it comes to using a gun. Is that correct?

5:20 p.m.

As an Individual

Jessica Maurice

Yes, I think everybody.... Even as women—

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

You're happy to do.... Does that not seem burdensome as well? Maybe that would be challenging for Ms. Dixon or Ms. Bedford, so maybe we need to come up with a solution that might fit all people.

5:20 p.m.

As an Individual

Jessica Maurice

I'm sorry. I don't understand your question. Can you repeat it, please?

October 18th, 2018 / 5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

You said that using a gun is a safety measure, a technique, that was taught to you and other people in your area at a very young age. Is that not also cumbersome and a burden that's put on the individuals, having them protect themselves with their own guns rather than figuring out a system that may protect and work for everyone?

5:20 p.m.

As an Individual

Jessica Maurice

I see what you're getting at, but I feel like it's a tricky question, to be honest.

Our primary aim in having firearms in rural areas is not to protect ourselves from other people. It's like a vehicle. It has a lot of potential to be dangerous if used in the wrong way. That is why we take the ownership and use of them very seriously, and people are very careful with them. You don't just go around shooting off a firearm like a crazy person. You have to have respect for them, just like you have to have respect for vehicles.

If you're going to own a gun, you have a responsibility to be safe with it, and I think most firearm owners would agree.