A strong case for the Manitowaning OPP detachment

We’re learning that the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) has in mind one or even two new police detachment offices, but not yet where they would be located.

Members of the Community Policing Advisory Committee (CPAC) learned this at their February meeting and, following concerns expressed by Assiginack reeve and council, Manitoulin OPP detachment Staff Sergeant Kevin Webb attended last week’s meeting of council in response to concerns about the future of the Manitowaning detachment.

Understandably, the members of Assiginack council are concerned they may be losing a significant Island institution and Staff Sergeant Webb did indicate to them the possibility of the closure of the existing detachment office on Highway 6 and replacing it with a “storefront” facility.

Quite a comedown from hosting the Island’s OPP detachment headquarters, if this comes to pass.

In a related news story in this week’s paper, an Expositor staffer asked long-time Assiginack resident, municipal councillor and former reeve Leslie Fields about the significance to the community of members of the OPP, and their families, over the years.

The positive impact of the local OPP community on the town of Manitowaning and surrounding area is quite remarkable and while OPP officers and their families are valued members of all Island communities, it’s clear that particularly in Manitowaning, there has been a long tradition of community involvement and leadership on the part of members of the local detachment and those associated with them.

This not withstanding, if there is to be a new OPP detachment headquarters created (or possibly one of two), there can clearly be a case made for locating it in Manitowaning.

Almost 20 years ago, Manitoulin was designated a single detachment area, a change from the previous four freestanding detachments located in Manitowaning, Mindemoya, Little Current and Gore Bay.

At that time, the betting was that the OPP offices in Little Current would become headquarters of the Manitoulin detachment.

When the dust settled, however, the detachment at Manitowaning had been declared the official headquarters and office of the staff sergeant.

Twenty years ago, the decision was made to make Manitowaning the local OPP headquarters and, in the scheme of things, not much has changed with the notable exception of the OPP sharing Island policing duties with two tribal police forces: the UCCM Anishnaabe Police and the Wikwemikong Tribal Police.

The three organizations work cooperatively and Manitowaning is Wikwemikong’s closest neighbouring community and is also fairly directly linked to the UCCM Anishnaabe Police headquarters in M’Chigeeng via the Bidwell Road.

Then there is the simple political reality of locating a significant employer, in addition to one that confers positive status, in a community where it is clear that generations of police officers have enjoyed working and living to the extent that they have become involved in the life of this particular community at a level that is quite out of proportion to other Island towns where there also are and have been concentrations of OPP officers and their families.

This should count for more than a little and no doubt all of these aspects and more besides will be brought to bear by the lobby that we can doubtlessly expect the Manitowaning community to mount in order to maintain, or enhance, the OPP’s management presence in this town.

Hopefully they will be successful.