A second Quesnel in Action rally will take place Monday, Sept. 23 in front of the provincial court building.
Citizens are planning to gather at 5:30 p.m. to discuss the need for tougher sentences for repeat offenders as well as the need for more resources for Crown Counsel. This will be the second Quesnel in Action rally in a month, following a gathering to raise concerns about increasing crime Aug. 27 in front of City Hall that attracted about 150 people.
Prince George-Mackenzie MLA Mike Morris, the Opposition Public Safety and Solicitor General Critic, was in Quesnel Wednesday, Sept. 18, and he says rallies like this “definitely” do make a difference because he believes any solutions are going to come from the community itself.
“Anything that happens needs to be community-led,” he said. “The community has a duty to be informed, and the politicians are involved to remove any barriers that are in the way. We have a lot of smart people. There are folks out there who, all they need is to start working with other people, and that synergy will start producing good results.”
Morris says it has been proven in the past that citizens getting together and spreading a message can make a difference, as we wouldn’t have Northern Health or University of Northern B.C. if we hadn’t had community rallies.
Cariboo North MLA Coralee Oakes has noticed the Quesnel in Action movement is bringing forward new people who are wanting to create change.
“We are seeing new faces emerge out of these rallies,” she said. “I think there’s a real opportunity for them to feel re-connected to their community.”
Morris says that society has defaulted to the police and court system to look after people who are mentally ill and addicted, and while people may look at somebody’s sentence and feel it doesn’t fit the crime, the courts are saying that person shouldn’t have been in court in the first place.
“I think we need to take that message and look at implementing a restorative justice system tailored for the community utilizing all these services … and keep them out of the courts because we are not going to be happy with the decisions out of the courts,” he said. “There’s no magic wand. I think as we move forward in the next decade or so, I think communities need to take a more collaborative approach to public safety and perhaps change the structure of public safety provincially as well. There’s a lot of support to move toward an integrated approach to public safety where we integrate resources with B.C. Housing, police, Mental Health, community groups. That provides more opportunity to tailor responses to individual needs.”
Morris thinks an inventory of what is available and what services are missing and then working to fill those gaps is needed.
“But we need to work with what’s in our basket,” he said. “Just because we don’t’ have the resources isn’t an excuse to do nothing.”
While Morris was in Quesnel, he and Oakes met with concerned citizens about rising concerns around crime and met with the Quesnel and District Chamber of Commerce. Morris, who is also the Critic for Emergency Management, also met with local residents who were impacted by the 2017 and 2018 wildfires and floods.
Oakes says when it comes to gaps in services, recovery beds and long-term recovery beds are desperately needed in the north.
“It is very difficult to find somebody to get them in a facility,” she said. “There are a lot of barriers right now.”