Still no cops in Kwadacha First Nation

Six months after a push to get RCMP officers assigned to his community, Kwadacha First Nation Chief Donny Van Somer says the village's detachment building is still sitting empty.

Since 2007, Van Somer has been pushing to bring cops to Kwadacha, one of two remote, mostly-Aboriginal communities on the north shore of Williston Lake.

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The Tsay Keh Dene First Nation has the nearest detachment, 75 kilometres down a gravel road. Long response times mean many minor offences, including drinking and public disturbance incidents, go unreported. 

In August, Van Somer spoke to the Globe and Mail to raise the issue again. Government helped pay for the detachment building, completed nearly five years ago. He said that under RCMP rules, a minimum three members would need to be assigned to the post.

"There was a big hype about it because there was some media coverage," he said. "Our detachment is still empty. Still no officers have been assigned there."

Staff Sgt. Rob Vermeulen, of the B.C. RCMP, said that rural policing can be "challenging, with police officers responsible for large geographic areas."

"The policing responsibility for the community of Kwadacha (Fort Ware) falls within the detachment of Tsay Keh," he wrote in an email, adding 70 per cent of calls in the the area come from that community.

Remote detachments are "limited duration" assignments, meaning a member would be assigned for two to three years. Those assignments are worked out annually, and are based on salaries, recruitment, training and other costs.

"Staffing these limited duration positions remains a priority for the RCMP," Vermeulen wrote.

Van Somer said crime isn't a major issue in the community. But he worries about kids in the nation who only see police when they come to arrest someone.

"All the kids are seeing, they're not seeing the positive side of the RCMP, they're seeing a reaction," he said, where in larger communities "RCMP interact with school kids, and (the kids) see another side of the law, and learn the law."

Kwadacha is in the far northwest corner of the Peace River Regional District. The community has an on-reserve population of just under 300.

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