MANITOULIN – While nothing has been set in stone as far as the province making final decisions on the recomposition of Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) boards, the Manitoulin Community Police Advisory Committee (CPAC) has made it clear they would like to see one police board for Manitoulin Island.
CPAC chair Al Boyd indicated at a committee meeting last week that correspondence has been received from the North Shore, specifically the Lacloche Foothills Municipal Association, indicating that due to the geographical separation, and several other differences including in policing the area having its own set of issues, the North Shore area would like its own policing board.
Mr. Boyd, who is also a councillor for the Town of Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands (NEMI) said, “from NEMI council’s perspective, mayor and council are in favour of having our own separate policing board for Manitoulin Island.”
“I brought up this same issue with our council last week and we are in support of a motion passed by Central Manitoulin (for Manitoulin to have a separate board),” said Bryan Barker, a Billings Township councillor. “We favour having two separate policing boards; Manitoulin is unique in its geographic makeup, and we feel we should have our own.”
Steve Shaffer, a Central Manitoulin councillor, said his council passed a motion in favour of Manitoulin having its own police board. “Having said that there is a bit of reluctance, and a ‘be careful what you ask for;’ the makeup of the boards and the costs involved haven’t been determined. Yes, we support in principle having one policing committee on Manitoulin, but as I said, be careful about what you wish for…the devil is in the details.”
“I have a couple of concerns with all of this,” stated Wayne Bailey, a Burpee-Mills councillor. “We don’t have the provincial answer on how the police boards will be composed, or the costs involved, and whether they are looking at a one-size-fits-all situation for Ontario. If there is one board for the Island hopefully it will be designed to focus on the issues and concerns for the Island.”
Manitoulin OPP Inspector Detachment Commander Megan Moriarity pointed out the province has not finalized the details on the new police boards.
“It’s still all up in the air. For tonight I would just like to see where the majority of the municipalities are,” said Councillor Boyd.
“Gore Bay has the same opinion, that we would like our own board for the Island,” said Gore Bay Mayor Dan Osborne. “If the Island is put in with another area our voice could get diluted, and the board might not get direct input from the municipalities. We also have apprehensions about what the costs will be. And I hope the province hasn’t already made up its mind without further input from each area. Central Manitoulin was blindsided when it was announced the OPP detachment office there would be closing, without the community being able to provide input. I hope we are not all blindsided like that.”
Dave McDowell said his council (Assiginack) has the same opinion, that there are differences in Espanola and the North Shore in comparison to Manitoulin in terms of policing and that the Island should have its own board. Representatives of Gordon/Barrie Island and Tehummah are also of this view.
Inspector Moriarity said, “I have heard nothing (from the province) since COVID hit in March. I agree we like the way things operate on Manitoulin, and I fully agree Manitoulin Island and the North Shore have different issues and safety concerns.”
Councillor Boyd suggested CPAC could write a letter to the province indicating it would like Manitoulin to have its own separate police board.
“I don’t think it would hurt,” said Mayor Osborne. “The more our voices are heard the better, and the North Shore is also looking to have its own police board, as they have indicated.”
It was further suggested by Councillor Barker that it might also be worth it to have each municipal council pass a motion in support of the CPAC position and have each municipalities motion accompany a letter to the province.
“I agree. We’re asking the province to consider Manitoulin Island having a separate police board,” added Councillor Shaffer.