RCMP Insp. Keith MacKinnon sits for a portrait at the force’s M Division headquarters in Whitehorse. MacKinnon, originally from Nova Scotia, replaces outgoing Insp. Archie Thompson. (Jesse Winter/Yukon News)

Whitehorse RCMP gets new detachment commander

Police seeking more funding from YG, won’t say how much

The new detachment commander of the Whitehorse RCMP says he’s confident police will be able to solve the recent surge in murders in the city.

It was only Insp. Keith MacKinnon’s third day on the job when he was called to the scene of a murder in Porter Creek. It was the seventh homicide of 2017 in the territory, the sixth in Whitehorse.

“I don’t think it’s any one issue, I don’t think it’s any one group. I don’t think there’s any direct linkage between (the murders),” he said.

“The environment we’re in today is ever-changing. I’ve seen this in policing in my 28 years where you have spurts of criminal activities regardless of what it is. Unfortunately that happens to be homicides in this area at this time. “

MacKinnon said it’s important the RCMP continue to make community members feel safe.

“We’re providing 24-hour coverage and I think you shouldn’t go very long before you see a police car going by on patrol or responding to a call. I think that presence is important,” he said.

“I think people should be confident, and I am very confident, these crimes, these people, will be brought to justice.”

As for whether the RCMP will be asking the territorial and federal government for more officers in next year’s budget, so far the division is keeping that information private.

Seventy per cent of the cost of policing in the territory is covered by the Yukon government. The rest of the money comes from Ottawa.

Now is the time of year when various departments — including the RCMP — start making requests to the territorial government about what needs to be included in the next territorial budget.

Earlier this summer, RCMP Supt. Brian Jones said that the workload of the major crime unit was “through the roof” and that the “status quo needs to change.”

RCMP spokesperson Coralee Reid confirmed the RCMP has submitted its request and that “the proposal does contain submissions for new growth in a number of areas in M Division.” All details about what the detachment is asking for are being kept confidential, she said.

MacKinnon said the RCMP benefits from being able to ask for help with investigation from other divisions or specialists.

“If we require specialty services and so on, we can employ them,” he said. “I think we stand well in furthering the investigations with the resources we have here and we can employ other resources as need be.”

MacKinnon moved to Whitehorse from Amherst, Nova Scotia, where he was a staff sergeant in charge of Cumberland County district. He spent 18 years working in different detachments in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“I love northern latitudes, I served in Labrador for four years and I miss that experience,” he said. “I’m a small town kind of guy.”

MacKinnon was part of a national committee that designed a drug awareness and anti-bullying program called Aboriginal Shield. He said he’d like to start up the program in the Yukon.

“I think youth engagement is critical. I think we can do some work in that area.”

Aboriginal Shield is similar to the DARE drug education program “in that the Aboriginal youth are given the tools to combat different issues that they see,” he said. “It’s a culturally-sensitive Aboriginal program.”

The program is taught in schools and has two sets of curriculum for Grades 5-6 and 7-8.

“We train facilitators in the community to relate to the youth,” he said. “Unlike the DARE program where it’s a Mountie that goes in, this is a mentor within the community and they administer the program to the youth.”

The program includes 12 “units” that are taught in the schools.

“There’s proof that programs that are sustainable over time, (that) help build those bridges between the police, between those elders and the youth, are more effective than one-time presentations.”

MacKinnon is replacing former inspector Archie Thompson. Thompson was promoted to the rank of superintendent and accepted a position with the RCMP in Newfoundland and Labrador earlier this summer.

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com