“It’s very good, but five years too late,”
That’s according to Prince George-Mackenzie Liberal MLA Mike Morris when dissecting the Safer Communities Action Plan unveiled by Premier David Eby.
Some of the key points include the opening of ten new Indigenous Justice Centres more mental health crisis response teams and a much tougher approach to prolific offenders.
Morris told Vista Radio the Car 60 program in Prince George should be expanded, but a lot of the leg work could have been done sooner.
“Instead of one, we should have two, three, or four of these vehicles in our community to address the mental health needs the RCMP and police officers are coming across on a regular basis.”
“This could have been done a long time ago.”
Morris added while the Premier is coming from the right place, it remains a head-scratcher as to why these steps weren’t introduced at an earlier time.
“This is stuff he could have done when he was first declared as the Attorney General for the province. For it to take this long to implement, I am appalled by that because there are a lot of people that have been seriously hurt and are victims of crime because these were not implemented a heck of a lot earlier.”
However, Morris is a fan of the idea of opening ten new Indigenous Justice Centres in BC.
He believes having more of these facilities is a good start but he does have one question.
“If they are trying to divert a lot of the first nation’s folks from being incarcerated instead of going through the judicial system, what are the alternatives? What are the options that are out there and what are the resources that these people have at their fingertips.”
Morris also scoffed at the notion that the rise in repeat violent offending, is linked to unintended impacts of federal law changes and subsequent Supreme Court decisions, and increased mental health and addiction challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“David Eby had the ability and the support (as Attorney General). John Horgan is a very admirable man and all David Eby had to say was ‘this is what the situation is Mr. Premier, we need to add more resources for this’ and it would have been done in a flash. But, for some reason, David Eby refused to acknowledge the fact there was a problem.”
“I spent a long time in the police force as an investigator, supervisor, manager, and executive. We were dealing with the changes to the Criminal Code as a result of the federal government – we were dealing with changes to law as a result of the Supreme Court Decisions and we would adjust our resources to meet that. The same duty is cast upon the Attorney Generals across each province that when these changes come out, they have to modify their approach in the provinces to respect those changes.”
Lastly, the launching of new repeat violent offender co-ordinated response teams, made up of police and dedicated prosecutors and probation officers did gain some support from Morris but wonders if the prosecution service and fellow police officers will wear down if no new resources are brought forward.
“Police have been providing crown counsel with all the information that they need to hold these individuals in custody and probation has been involved in this as well. The problem is I don’t think the government has afforded the resources to crown counsel to spend the time looking at that. Crowns are overwhelmed and overworked, they need the extra resources so it’s good to see them going in that direction but they should have done this the minute Bill C-75 was passed,” added Morris.
“I read that legislation myself and as soon as I read it, my old police manager’s hat came on and I thought this is going to add 20-30 percent to a police officer’s workload. It’s going to increase prosecution work considerably but yet, but nothing was done in that regard by the BC Prosecutions Service and the Attorney General’s side.”
A full link to the Safer Communities Action Plan can be found here.