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Open Letter on recent concerns in and around the Lac La Biche region

Crime and fear need a community-wide response from all residents and leaders

As a community leader, I believe every person has a tremendous amount of value, no matter who they are, where they are from, what language they speak, what religion they practice, or what sexual orientation they are — everyone is equal.

In the last two centuries, our community has become the most diverse and multi-cultural community in Canada. Indigenous people of the area met the European fur trader with open arms. Out of this came the Métis culture. In later years, the French settled in Plamondon, the Italian settled the Hylo / Venice area, the Ukrainian settled the Craigend area, while a Norwegian and Swedish contingent settled the Rich Lake area.

We strive to build a cultural community without silos. So when issues arise, they should be dealt with as one community — with everyone involved. With clear thinking, for example, we must not associate crime with one culture or one segment of our community. Crime affects us all.

Crime in our rural areas has terrified residents. At night, they don't feel safe in their own homes and are sleeping with weapons under their pillows. I had neighbours who have been shot at in their own homes, and others who have put up huge steel gates at the entrance to their properties. 

We as a community spend a lot of money on RCMP and the Community Peace Officer program. We have no control over the courts which sentence criminals, and then set them free within months of a five-year sentence. We have no control over the provincial corrections system or the federal corrections system. We must continue to lobby the federal and provincial governments to put more resources into the whole system.

We need the businesses to sign their criminal complaints to deal with loitering, mischief and suspicious activity. With our surrounding communities, we need to work together to enable Neighbourhood Watch, Rural Crime Watch, multi-partner crime prevention awareness committees, Community Peace Officers and the RCMP. We need to explore ways of communicating with each other without delay, and we also need the resources to patrol and report.

These actions would mitigate some tensions between members of our community.

I will end with a quote by C.S. Lewis: You can't go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are — and change the ending."

George L'Heureux