RCMP residences complete at Waterhen Lake First Nation
by Phil Ambroziak
Improved service and stronger relations were two key messages shared by police and Waterhen Lake First Nation members during a special event July 4.
That was the day the Meadow Lake RCMP held a grand opening for the new police residences located on the reserve, a project that marks a change in the way police serve the community.
“Some years ago, RCMP officers were living and working in Waterhen,” explained Meadow Lake RCMP Staff Sgt. Tim Korman. “But, because housing conditions were not great, they relocated back to Meadow Lake.”
Korman went on to say, since his arrival in Meadow Lake, he’s been in negotiations with Waterhen’s chief and council to have a housing project completed to allow officers to once again serve the community on a more regular basis.
“The first officer, Cst. Bill Groene, moved into the community May 16 while the second one, Cst. Cam Saint-Martin, starts in Waterhen today,” Korman said during last week’s ribbon-cutting ceremony outside the recently completed duplex. “At the end of the day, the purpose is to provide better access to policing for the people of Waterhen and to make the community safer for everyone who lives here. With the large number of people in attendance for today’s grand opening, it’s obviously something that’s being well-received.”
Previously, RCMP members were assigned to Waterhen, but were stationed in Meadow Lake. They would drive to the reserve when contacted.
Korman said living on the reserve is also a great opportunity for members to become involved with the cultural component of the community and to improve relations between the police and the public. RCMP Assistant Commissioner Russ Mirasty agreed.
“This is a great asset for the community,” Mirasty reiterated. “It’s a step up when you have police officers physically living within the community. It improves response time, as well as relations which, to me, is the foundation for the future.”
Meanwhile, Waterhen chief Carol Bernard said she views the increased police presence as a plus for crime prevention and as a way to better educate band members about the need to be responsible.
“We need to be proactive to ensure a positive future for our children and this is a step forward,” Bernard said. “We also want the officers to be looked at as community members. They’re not just here to catch the bad guys.”
Joanne Roy, the Waterhen band councillor in charge of the reserve’s justice portfolio, said she has come to understand there is a huge need for RCMP on-reserve.
“This is a true partnership, and I hope the continued support will be there,” Roy said. “This is just the start – it doesn’t stop here.”