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Lang wants RCMP auxiliary changes re examined

Yukon's senator wants the RCMP to reconsider changing the role of auxiliary constables across Canada.

Yukon’s senator wants the RCMP to reconsider changing the role of auxiliary constables across Canada.

Dan Lang said he’s heard from auxiliary constables all over the country who may leave their positions because of changes made by RCMP headquarters in January.

Auxiliary officers are unarmed volunteers who often work alongside police. They attend schools and businesses to talk about safety, help with search and rescue and, until recently, helped at police checkpoints looking for impaired drivers.

“However, because they are uniformed and often work alongside their police counterparts the potential for danger exists,” said Whitehorse RCMP’s Insp. Archie Thompson.

“Incidents where uniform officers have been randomly targeted, along with the shooting of an auxiliary constable in Alberta last year demonstrated the need for increased vigilance.”

In 2015 an RCMP officer north of Edmonton was shot and killed during a routine investigation of a casino. An auxiliary officer working with him was shot in the arm and torso but survived.

Under the new rules, auxiliary officers in Canada no longer participate in ride-alongs or at RCMP check stops. That includes the 12 who currently work in Whitehorse.

Thompson said the RCMP will do its best to assign more uniformed officer to help at check-stops instead.

“I think, if we look at this honestly, they will be missed, there’s no question about that. But we just can’t put them in harm’s way.”

But Lang said officers understand the risk when they sign up to volunteer.

“Everything’s a balance of risk. You can put the same question to volunteer firefighters, there’s risk. There’s a risk to you personally and the family. So that’s part of what you volunteer for within the community.”

Lang said diminishing the role of auxiliary officers will mean fewer volunteers come forward.

“In fact, I have had correspondence from across the country from individuals that have been involved in this program for many, many years who have stated on the record that if it continues the way it is they’ll withdraw and volunteer in some other aspect of the community.”

Lang wants the program put back the way it was.

“If there’s a sense that the training program isn’t sufficient, which I can’t comment (on) one way or the other, then upgrade the training,” he said.

At a senate hearing in March Lang raised his concerns with Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale. He has since spoken with Yukon RCMP Chief Superintendent Peter Clark, he said.

“So I’m hopeful that there’s a message that comes out of Ottawa that says, ‘Look, we better take a second look at this.’”

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