Jesse Ryder, a community safety officer for Kwanlin Dün First Nation, said the program is helping people in the community feel safer. Five years after its conception at Kwanlin Dün, other jurisdictions in the Yukon are interested in developing thier own community safety officer programs. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Community safety officer program could be on the brink of expansion in the Yukon, coordinator says

Gina Nagano said Little Salmon/Carmacks and Na-cho Nyak Dun First Nations have reached out to her

Other communities in the Yukon are interested in developing community safety officer programs like the ones in Kwanlin Dün and Selkirk First Nations, according to the coordinator who helped establish them.

Gina Nagano, a program consultant, told the News that Little Salmon/Carmacks and Na-Cho Nyak Dun First Nations have reached out to her.

“We’re hoping that by having these two programs out there, one from a rural perspective and the other from an urban perspective, is to allow this program to grow to other Indigenous communities, or, in particular, in our First Nations communities here in the Yukon,” she said on Feb. 27 after presenting at the “Exploring Justice: Our Way” conference at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre.

“Other communities need this program. This would be something we would love to see one day go across Canada.”

Safety officers are unarmed and act as an intermediary between the RCMP and citizens.

Nagano said communities in British Columbia have contacted her. She wouldn’t say which ones, however.

“I just have this future vision of one day seeing all our First Nations communities have community safety officer programs,” she said.

There are three full-time and two part-time safety officers in Kwanlin Dün First Nation; Selkirk First Nation has two who work on a full-time basis, along with three who are on-call.

Nagano said an extra safety officer in Selkirk could bode well for the community. That depends on funding, she said, noting that work is occurring in order to possibly expand capacity.

Community safety officers Elias Park and Darcy Marcotte were involved in the presentation. They work in Kwanlin Dün and Selkirk First Nations, respectively.

Park, the first and longest serving safety officer in Kwanlin Dün, said the crime rate has gone down since the program started in his community in 2015.

“I know it’s working,” he said. “I see the results every day.”

Doris Bill, who’s running for a third term as chief of Kwanlin Dün, recently told the News that two more years of funding has been secured for the program.

Marcotte said he receives a lot of calls regarding drug dealing, bootlegging and problems with dogs. No matter the issue, he said residents trust him and his partner in Selkirk First Nation.

“A lot of people feel more comfortable,” he said. “We’re citizens, too. They’ve had some bad experiences with justice professionals through the years. That’s why I’m in the program. I love it. I love working with people.”

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

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