Masset mayor Barry Pages says he wants to hold another public meeting to talk about justice and safety issues, this time with a judge and health workers attending.
Mr. Pages said administrative judge Ed de Walle will be on the islands from May 16 to 18, and has said he is willing to meet with Masset and Old Massett village councils.
In a letter to Masset administrator Trevor Jarvis, judge de Walle said he was impressed after reading the minutes of the March 15 public meeting, which was attended by around 100 residents and held in response to a rash of break-ins.
“I was certainly impressed with the number of questions and the level of debate that took place,” he wrote. “There were also some very good suggestions.”
Mr. Pages said he will be in touch with the judge to schedule a public meeting during his time on the islands.
At the village council meeting Monday night (March 26), Mr. Pages said he is also lobbying Northern Health to provide more mental health and addictions services in the community.
The lack of these services contributing to the increasing number of break-ins, he said.
“We’ve gone a number of years without any service,” he said. “You can see it in the communityÂ… The main cause of all these break and enters is young men looking for fast money to feed their addictions.”
Council members agreed, with Marlene Liddle pointing out that there are some services here for specifically for women, but none for men.
Overcrowded living conditions, the presence of drugs and alcohol, and abuse all contribute to the problem of young men who turn to crime to support their addictions, she said. All these issues need to be dealt with.
Mr. Pages said he attended a regional hospital district meeting last week in Terrace, and listened to a presentation by a mental health administrator from Prince George.
He told her about Masset’s lack of service, and she has agreed to attend a public meeting here in May.
Mr. Pages said Northern Health has to come up with some better ways to get mental health and addictions services to people in remote communities. He said he learned at the Terrace meeting that are 20 mental health beds in Prince George, and only an average of six of them are filled at any time. This is of virtually no use to people living on the islands, he said.
Islanders have to pay a hefty fee to get to Prince Rupert, the closest community where services are available, he said. Northern Health should also be doing something about that.
“Where else can you go in Canada have a $120 toll on the highway?” he said, referring to the ferry fare.
Northern Health has set up a bus service with provincial money which is supposed to be serving all northerners, but islanders aren’t benefitting from it, he added.
Meanwhile, there has been a good response from the community to a call for volunteers, with about 25 residents coming forward to form a “citizens on patrol” group which can assist police.
Council voted to approve the creation of a citizens on patrol committee and allow it to use a village vehicle when needed. Council members will discuss giving the committee a small budget when it prepares this year’s village budget over the next few weeks.
Mr. Jarvis said one resident came into the village office last week and said they couldn’t participate in the citizens on patrol, but wanted to know if they could donate money for gas costs.
The answer to that question is yes. In fact, chief financial officer Kim Mushynsky said the village can issue tax receipts for any donations.
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