MP Bill Casey is requesting that an independent risk assessment be undertaken on the RCMP’s plans to consolidate its emergency communications operations in Dartmouth.
“This RCMP plan is to cluster the two largest police communications 911 systems together with "H" Division Headquarters within a few blocks in Dartmouth,” the Cumberland-Colchester MP said, in a letter sent Monday to Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale requesting the assessment.
“A failure in this one small area of Dartmouth will collapse the emergency communications for the province and leave the RCMP leadership with no place to function when they are needed the most.”
Top RCMP officials from Dartmouth recently met with staff at the Operational Communications Centre (OCC) in Truro and later with local elected officials to inform them of its plans to close the Truro facility and transfer operations to the HRM by Februrary 2021.
The move would eliminate 55 jobs from Truro. More importantly from Casey’s perspective, however, is the “unnecessary” risk the move would create for Nova Scotians.
“The RCMP is gambling that nothing will happen in that part of Dartmouth,” Casey said. “It has been made clear to me by specialists in the telecommunications field that the RCMP made this decision based on wrong information. On two separate occasions, months apart, senior RCMP officials have told me that new technology allows them to just ‘flip a switch and transfer all emergency calls’ to a province like New Brunswick.
“They repeated that statement when they met with representatives of Millbrook First Nation and the mayors of Truro and the Municipality of Colchester. ‘Flipping the switch’ is the backup they are counting on to replace the emergency communications provided by the two largest police communication centres if they fail, but it won’t work.”
He said the 2014 shootings on Parliament Hill are a prime example of why redundancy in the province’s emergency communications system is required.
On Oct. 22, 2014, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, a Canadian solider on ceremonial duty, was fatally shot by Michael Zehaf-Bibeau. The shooter then ran inside the Centre Block of the parliament buildings where he was killed in a shootout with security personnel.
Casey said after the shootings, a risk assessment determined that a police communications failure had occurred, and it was recommended that a second security communications facility should be established in order to provide the “geographic separation and the redundancy” that every expert calls for.
“In Nova Scotia the RCMP is doing the opposite by eliminating that mandatory ‘geographic separation and redundancy,’” Casey said.