TRURO, N.S. – The RCMP brass in Nova Scotia have served notice that they intend to move the long-standing communications centre in Truro to Dartmouth by February 20121.
“I feel very strongly that what they are doing is putting Nova Scotians at risk,” said Cumberland Colchester MP Bill Casey following the late afternoon meeting in Truro Thursday.
The information was disclosed in a closed-door meeting at the Holiday Inn in Truro chaired by RCMP Chief Superintendent Officer Lee Bergerman, who is in charge of the Halifax RCMP H Division. Bergerman had met with employees of the Truro centre at a prior meeting earlier in the afternoon.
Invited participants to the “stakeholders” meeting included Casey, Truro Mayor Bill Mills, Colchester County Mayor Christine Blair, a representative from MLA Lenore Zann’s office and Millbrook Band Councillor Barry Gloade, who sat in for Chief Bob Gloade.
The media was banned from attending.
One of the reasons that Casey said was provided for the transfer of services is because there is empty space available in the Nova Scotia RCMP headquarters in Burnside which the force is paying rent on.
He said the group was also told the RCMP has issues with recruiting and training of dispatch personnel in the Truro area.
“That to me is not an excuse to put Nova Scotians at risk,” he said. “I intend to oppose this until I have a legitimate reason that makes sense or they change it.”
Casey said he has several reports, including from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the RCMP's own 2004 report that strongly recommends against not having separate dispatch operations located at least 100 km, in case of a disaster that leaves one inoperable.
“I’ve got four manuals that say don’t do what they are doing, he said. “It breaks every manual, every rule in the book. The number one-rule is geographic separation between communications centres.”
Another primary reason for not separating the communications centres is because of the proximity of Dartmouth to the naval base and military munitions in the area.
“I just think they are being careless with this decision,” Casey said. “The rule right across the board is redundancy is everything.”
Mills said he was “not very happy” about the decision and he questions both the RCMP’s wisdom and its reason for doing so.
“It’s a pretty hard pill to swallow,” he said. “I agree with the opinions based on the 2004 (RCMP) report that said the move wasn’t a good move.”
Mills said he suggested at the meeting that if staffing and training were an issue, a program could be established at the Truro NSCC campus to deal with it. But there was no indication from the RCMP that any such proposal would be considered.
Colchester County Mayor Christine Blair said her impression that the decision to transfer the service out of Truro “is a done deal” from a federal level without any serious consultation with local stakeholders.”
“We’re not overly impressed with the decision,” she said.
Millbrook First Nation Chief Bob Gloade said he is “extremely disappointed” with the RCMP decision and that putting its communications operations into one centre defeats “multiple” purposes.
Gloade said he has been dealing with RCMP on the issue for at least two years, during which he had proposed providing space for a new centre in Millbrook, either at an existing high-tech former call centre there or within a customized building that would have been built to the force’s specifications at absolutely no cost to taxpayers. Gloade said Millbrook had proposed absorbing the capital costs of providing a new centre which it planned to recoup through a long-term lease with the RCMP.
And he said the decision to relocate the centre to Dartmouth also flies in the face of everything the RCMP and the federal government espouses regarding building relations with First Nations people.
“It’s a total reversal of cooperation in every respect,” he said. “This does not build nation-to-nation relationships. It is against everything that they preach.”
Gloade said he also spoke to the RCMP about the employment opportunities for his community that a new centre in Millbrook could have provided.
“They also say they want First Nations (people) as members but in the past two years they have made zero attempts (at communication),” he said.
RCMP spokeswoman Cpl. Jennifer Clarke said the decision to relocate the centre “was based on extensive study and research, and considered all options presented through the lens of employee health and wellness, operational requirements and fiscal responsibility.”
Now that the decision has been shared, she said, the RCMP’s focus is on supporting its employees through the transition and ensuring the communications centre at its Headquarters supports police operations and provides a modern workplace.