Pubdate: Wed, 21 Jun 2006
Source: Fort McMurray Today (CN AB)
Copyright: 2006 Fort McMurray Today
Author: Larissa Liepins


Fort McKay will get three designated police
officers to deal with the problem of substance abuse in the hamlet of
400 people, located 65 kilometres north of Fort McMurray.

Some of the funding will come from oilsands plants, but the officers
will report to the local RCMP.

Council voted Tuesday night to approve the request for three "enhanced
policing" positions for a period of three years.

"This is an ongoing situation common in a lot of rural communities,
which is drugs invading the community," Cort Gallup, the administrator
for the Fort McKay Metis Nation, said after the vote.

"The main social effects are domestic abuse and property damage,"
Gallup said, adding he hopes that after three years, "it will all be
cleaned up and they'll be no more need (for the officers.)"

The hamlet is currently policed by 18 officers out of Fort McMurray
who are assigned to rural duties in a large portion of Wood Buffalo on
a rotating basis, but McKay's growing population and increased drug
abuse necessitate its own officers, council heard.

Those officers are paid for by the Province of Alberta.

"It's part and parcel of the problems in our region due to industry
growth," said Coun. Carolyn Slade.

Referring to the annual bill of $125,000 per officer that Fort McKay
First Nation will foot itself, Coun. Jim Carbery praised the move,
saying, "Fort McKay is taking the responsibility to better itself."

The First Nation will pay for the three positions with the help of
Albian Sands Energy, Petro-Canada, Suncor Energy, and Syncrude Canada,
Gallup said.

"And we've got a positive reaction in discussion with industry (for
five more positions)," he added.

In addition to responding to calls from Fort McKay and enforcing
traffic laws on Highway 63 north of the Suncor site, the officers
would help police the Suncor, Syncrude, and Albian Sands Energy
project sites, according to a letter from Chief Jim Boucher of the
Fort McKay First Nation

"You have to applaud industry, both south and north, to make sure our
communities are safe, but we need to see more and more help from the
province," Slade said.

Coun. John Vyboh also criticized what he called "a case where the
province is abdicating on some of its responsibilities." But Mayor
Melissa Blake said, "We are very fortunate they're even allocating
officers to our region because of the competition (across the
province) for them."

The police officers should be in place within the year, said RCMP
Supt. Peter Clark, who called the measure "more proactive than reactive." 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake