The new Sechelt council has created its first committee: A community safety task force.
The public first heard about this new group during John Henderson’s mayoral address at the council’s inaugural meeting. Henderson himself will chair the task force, while Coun. Brenda Rowe was appointed as vice-chair.
As he kicked off the discussion of the agenda item at the Nov. 16 council meeting, Coun. Darren Inkster said the council members had heard concerns from community members throughout the campaign period, and this was the reaction.
Inkster suggested choosing an end date for the task force and Henderson agreed that it would be a limited-time committee with a focus of coming up with practical solutions to improve the safety of residents and businesses. Henderson said the task force would provide its first report on Jan. 31.
Coun. Dianne McLauchlan asked if the RCMP and community members will be involved, to which Henderson said he’s met with them. When Coun. Alton Toth asked how the task force will solicit volunteers, the mayor said at least a dozen have already come forward. Coun. Donna Bell said she wants to see “subject matter experts” at the table, and both she and Coun. Adam Shepherd pointed to a community safety project launched in Maple Ridge this year as a potential starting point for Sechelt's task force.
Once the recommendations passed, Inkster said, “There'll be the task force piece, but I believe there's also the discussion we will be having with the province about potentially putting more resources in the mental health field."
While Henderson agreed, he said that’s not the primary focus of the task force. The report in the agenda states, “The intention of the Task Force is not to address services that are the jurisdiction of the Province, including homelessness and challenges related to mental health and addictions.”
McLauchlan, who said she lives in the village area, wished the task force luck, adding, “I know it's a very difficult problem, and it's international. It's also about income inequality and people's desperation, and I don't want to forget that. From what I've heard, it's about people also wanting to find community. So I hope it's done in a very sensitive and caring way.”
Coun. Brenda Rowe said it will be hard not to get too far into the weeds, but there is a task at hand that she agreed needed sensitivity. “From my discussion with the Mayor, that's around what can we identify that is within our realm of control that we can do to make the situation better, make the community feel safer.”