A petition is circulating in the south end of the Cowichan Valley urging Victoria not to amalgamate Shawnigan Lake’s RCMP station with the one in North Cowichan.
Kerry Davis, the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s director for Mill Bay/Malahat, said the petition is meant to draw the government’s attention to how unpopular a decision to amalgamate the Valley’s two RCMP detachments into one would be in the area.
He said Sonia Furstenau, MLA for the Cowichan Valley, has agreed to present the petition in the legislature, and the rules say she can present it every time the petition garners 25 new signatures.
“Many in the Valley’s south end are very upset with possible plans to take their RCMP detachment away,” Davis said.
“They are concerned about losing the local police presence in their area.”
Davis said if the government decided to place a satellite police office in South Cowichan that is only staffed part time, or if the entire detachment is based in North Cowichan, response times would be significantly lengthened.
Davis said he spoke to the former Liberal solicitor general Mike Morris before the NDP took over government after the recent provincial election, and he said response time to South Cowichan from North Cowichan would only be about 20 minutes.
“But what he failed to realize is that it would take another 30 minutes to reach some of the outlying areas in the south,” he said.
“The south end is growing rapidly, about six per cent in the last five years, and we need our own detachment.”
A one-hectare piece of property, located on Shawnigan Mill Bay Road near the Trans Canada Highway, has already been transferred from the CVRD to the RCMP for the construction of a new detachment in the south end, which is intended to replace the aging detachment at Shawnigan Lake.
The North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment on Canada Avenue is also aging and undersized and plans are underway that will see a new one constructed on a five-acre location on Ford Road.
But, under orders from Morris, a study was initiated to decide whether government wanted to amalgamate both detachments instead.
Davis said he and CVRD chairman Jon Lefebure met with the new NDP Solicitor General Mike Farnworth on the issue at the recent Union of B.C. Municipalities meeting and were told no final decision will be made until the service delivery model for police services in the Valley is completed.
“The government is still trying to figure out what it will do, and we’re expecting a final decision to be made in November,” Davis said.
Matteus Clement, the CVRD’s director for Cobble Hill, said he supports the petition that is making the rounds in the south end and encourages people to sign it.
“You ask anyone in the south end if the area is receiving enough police services as it is, and they would say no,” Clement said.
“We’re already under serviced for such a large area and if they amalgamate the detachments in the north end, the service times would be atrocious.”
Furstenau said she had a quick conversation with Farnworth in the halls of the legislature on Oct. 24 on the issue “just to get it on his radar.”
“It’s an important issue and I really support the efforts for South Cowichan to have its own RCMP detachment,” she said.
“I’m working with staff to develop a plan to have this issue emerge as a priority in Victoria. We haven’t decided yet if I’ll present the petition every time we get 25 new signatures, but we’ll figure out our best options.”