Kamloops councillor says ministers seem 'agreeable' to community court but require more information

'Agreeable' to special court?

A Kamloops councillor says an application for a Kamloops community court has been sent back to the project proponents as the province, while “agreeable” to the idea, has decided more information is needed.

Coun. Dale Bass joined councillors Bill Sarai, Kelly Hall and Katie Neustaeter, as well as the city's acting CAO Byron McCorkell on a visit to Victoria on Monday, May 13.

Bass said the group met with B.C.'s Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth, and Attorney General Niki Sharma to discuss, among other topics, a long-standing application to establish a local community court.

“Again, this time it was ‘we need more information.’ But it seems that they are agreeable to doing it once they see exactly what the entire program will entail,” Bass said.

“They know the concepts, but they want to know exactly what the supporting agencies will be able to bring to the table to assist in dealing with the type of justice that comes out of a community court.”

Bass said the proposal was bounced back to the proponents’ hands to come up with that information.

Kamloops RCMP Supt. Jeff Pelley has said he supports a local voluntary diversion or sentencing court, which is said to help co-ordinate resources for people struggling with mental health and addictions.

The idea for a local community court has been in the works since at least 2020.

A group of Kamloops law professors, lawyers and outreach workers submitted a community court proposal to B.C.’s Attorney General, which the ministry received in fall of 2021, but no such court has yet been established.

B.C.’s ministry of the attorney general said in an April email to Castanet Kamloops the project proponents submitted a revised proposal for a local community justice court, dated Feb. 1, 2024, which was being reviewed.

“A successful specialized court proposal in Kamloops would be expected to identify the specific gaps in programs and interventions that still exist, and that would be best addressed by the proposed model,” the ministry said.

Meetings better in person

A number of other topics were discussed with ministers, including an update on securing peace officer status for CSOs.

Bass said the Kamloops group met with Harry Bains, minister of labour, and had a conversation with Anne Kang, minister of municipal affairs, who happened upon the councillors and deputy CAO while they were waiting for their meeting with Farnworth and Sharma.

Neustaeter told council during its Tuesday meeting that Kang spoke highly of Henry Braun, the municipal advisor assigned to Kamloops, who presented council members with his final report in early May.

She said Kang expressed her “unequivocal support” of Braun, her confidence in him and his recommendations, and the respect she had for him and his work.

“The ministry was certainly pleased with the work he did and the report that he brought,” Neustaeter said.

Bass said it was worth heading to Victoria for in-person minister meetings.

“Zoom meetings are fine, Teams meetings are fine, but sometimes you just have to show up and look them in the eye,” she said.

"When you're standing or sitting in front of someone, they're more likely to pay attention to you than if you're on a screen. …It also shows our commitment. We’re willing to spend 18 hours, get up at four in the morning, leave at six in the morning, get home at 9:30 at night, to go down there and make the case again, and tell them we're ready to do whatever we need to do to get this done.”

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