Municipalities call for separate police board for Manitoulin

MANITOULIN—Manitoulin Island municipalities have made it clear they want to have their own separate police advisory board, distinct from Espanola and the North Shore, and that each Island municipality must have representation.

“We’re here tonight to try and iron out what the new police services board is going to look like,” said Ken Noland, chair of the Manitoulin Municipal Association (MMA) at a meeting last week. He pointed to NEMI Mayor Al MacNevin’s previous breakdown of the Manitoulin Centennial Manor board as an example. 

“Having a representative of all nine municipalities on the board would require three additional members of the community being selected as well as three provincial appointees,” Mayor MacNevin said. A letter from Sarah Caldwell and Joanna Reading of the Ministry of the Solicitor General suggested they might instead look at two community representatives and two provincially appointed representatives.

In a letter to Mayor MacNevin dated April 28 Ms. Caldwell wrote, “we’re hoping that there is indeed some flexibility on this, recognizing that you would potentially be pulling six persons from a relatively small area/population. To that end, the suggestion is that when the Manitoulin communities submit their proposal that you indicate your preference for two and two, rounding down to a little below 20 percent and we’ll work with that when it comes in.” She offered to return for a follow up discussion if it becomes necessary through the decision-making process over the summer. 

“There was some suggestion that some might want to partner with neighbouring municipalities for their representatives,” said Mayor MacNevin, noting that this is what the Manor board does. The District Services Board does as well, but with three representatives for the Island. Mayor MacNevin explained that Central Manitoulin and Tehkummah have partnered for the Manor board. “I’m not suggesting that model, but we can aim in that direction or we could have nine municipal representatives, two community members and two provincial appointees for an overall of 13 members. I’m not suggesting everyone wants it done that way.”

Each municipality was to bring the issue back to their own council, pointed out Chair Noland. Most municipalities have suggested they would like their own representatives. Mayor MacNevin had indicated NEMI wants their own representative at the last MMA meeting, but acknowledged his council had not yet discussed this. 

Billings Township Mayor Ian Anderson said his council has agreed they want a standalone representative. “Bryan Barker (councillor) gave a very good presentation on the unique concerns we have in Billings that requires police support,” he explained. 

Gore Bay Mayor Dan Osborne added, “our meeting is Monday but I think we’d just as soon have our own voice on the board.” Mayor Richard Stephens of Central Manitoulin and Hugh Moggy of Assiginack also supported having their own representatives as did Jack Bould, councillor for Gordon/Barrie Island. 

“Burpee and Mills would like to have its own representative but if other municipalities want to share, we’d be in favour of this as well,” said Reeve Noland. Tehkummah’s Rick Gordon echoed Reeve Noland’s statement. 

Rob Brown, councillor for Cockburn Island said the only responses he has received are from the CAO and mayor of the township, who are both undecided. “Sometimes information falls through the cracks,” Mr. Brown said. “If there are 13 members, we’d like a representative too.”

Representation for the unorganized townships of Dawson and Robinson was also discussed. One suggestion was they don’t get a voice. Reeve Noland suggested one representative for both. Mayor Osborne and Mayor Anderson agreed they had reason to be represented. Mayor Stephens suggested that when looking at census population numbers, “It might be more astute to have an additional representative on the east end.”

“Cockburn Island population year-round is zero, but there are summer residents and ratepayers,” said Mr. Brown. “On Manitoulin Island we have the opportunity to call police and they’re at the door. We need a voice to be collaborative. We have a township and a council. There are some concerns in bringing the OPP over and not having input. Having a representative (on the board) means a lot for the township.”

Reeve Noland noted that Espanola has agreed that there should be two boards, one for Espanola-LaCloche and one for Manitoulin Island. They would like to see a Manitoulin representative on the LaCloche Police Services Board and vice versa, however. Mr. Gordon noted CPAC has not had a representative from LaCloche or LaCloche from CPAC. “It would just be for information sharing because we’re within the same detachment area,” explained Mr. Noland. He added that with the size of the board it does not make sense to add another, especially with Manitoulin-Espanola OPP Inspector Megan Moriarty managing both.

Inspector Megan Moriarty stated, “You’re right on track, it’s each municipality’s preference.” She explained she has direct communication between the two areas. “For myself, it’s what you folks decide.”

Reeve Noland expressed his concern that the new board is supposed to be implemented in 2022 but potential municipal elections next year mean “we could be training someone to be on the police services board and two meetings in they could be gone. We need to press the province to hold off until after elections.” It was noted, however, that the current Community Police Advisory Council will remain in operation until police boards are fully implemented. 

Mayor MacNevin nominated Burpee and Mills to be the lead municipality for submitting the application. After the draft plan is passed by MMA, it will go back to councils for their input. The deadline for the creation of police service boards is June 7.