POLITICS

Gameti, Wrigley RCMP detachments postponed indefinitely

10/28/2014 10:48 EDT | Updated 12/28/2014 05:59 EST
Seven years ago, the RCMP and the territorial government announced they would establish police detachments in the N.W.T. communities of Gameti and Wrigley. A few years later, those plans were put on hold.

Now, it seems, there is no plan.

The original announcement was welcome news at the time.

With no resident police force, Gameti, a community of 300 people about 240 kilometres north of Yellowknife, relies on an officer in Behchoko who flies in to patrol three days a week. Wrigley, pop. 123, gets part-time service from officers in Fort Simpson.

Outside of that, it takes hours to get police help.

“The only time the RCMP comes by everything gets quiet,” says Gameti Chief David Wedawin.

“As soon as they're gone, you know, it's getting out of control.  But, so far, we're lucky. No incidents are happening."

The territorial government met with people in Gameti last week to talk about policing.

The government estimates it would cost between $11 and $13 million to build a small detachment in Gameti, pop. 311.

Wedawin says people there wonder why it would cost so much, but that may be a moot point.

Justice Minister David Ramsay says there's no money in the government's five-year capital plan for detachments in either community.

Federal government ‘ragged the puck’

According to Ramsay, when the new detachments were announced, the federal government was responsible for building them.

Under a new policing agreement signed two years ago, the territorial government agreed to pay for 70 per cent of that cost.

"The RCMP and the federal government at the time knew the policing agreement was coming to an end in 2012,” Ramsay says.

“My belief is they ragged the puck,” he says, using the hockey expression to suggest they deliberately wasted time to run out the clock.

“They got to 2012 when we had to pay 70 per cent, and it was a complete different set of circumstances for us, and the feds knew that."

Alice Black death highlighted need

At least one recent case renewed calls for an RCMP detachment in Gameti.  

In February, 2009, 31-year-old Alice Black was found beaten in her home. Her common-law husband, Terry James Vital, 35, was later sentenced to seven years for manslaughter.

At the time of the beating, Vital had been wanted by police for 11 months. A warrant was outstanding after he failed to show up to court to face charges connected to two previous assaults on Black. He spent at least part of that time in the community.

Gameti First Nation Chief Henry Gon told CBC News at the time that some people in Gameti helped hide Vital when officers came out to look for him.

Vital was finally arrested shortly after Black's death, when RCMP officers, who had flown to the community to look for him, found him walking down a local road.

The incident prompted the YWCA to renew calls in 2009 to build a local detachment, saying not doing so would put women in the community at risk.

Northwest Territories RCMP currently have 21 detachments operating in 33 communities.