The County of Haliburton and OPP kicked off the formal process to create a community safety and wellbeing plan April 12.
A steering committee made up of councillors and Haliburton Highlands OPP acting commander Sgt. Dan Collings held a kickoff meeting for the plan. The provincially-mandated document would outline how different sectors - including municipalities, policing, social, education and health - can collaborate to address community risks and service gaps.
Coun. Brent Devolin said this could help break down some of the barriers that exist between different sectors. “
This has the potential, both from policing and mental health and a bunch of other things, to remove a bunch of these silos,” Devolin said. “The players are at the table collectively, which I think is a huge advantage.”
The County has hired Toronto-based consultant StrategyCorp to help develop the plan. An advisory table made up of the different sectors will guide the process. The consultant said the process should leave a legacy of greater collaboration between different organizations.
A new OPP detachment board that will help oversee local policing will also be formed once the plan is in place. Members discussed the jurisdictional hurdles, such as neighbouring detachments in Bancroft and Huntsville that also operate in Haliburton. They also discussed the lower-tier townships shifting responsibility onto the County for a unified plan.
Warden Liz Danielsen said the County should have a role and the question of the plan’s financing will have to be addressed.
“We all have the same goal, that being the health and safety of all our residents,” Danielsen said. “I’m hoping this is a really solid collaborative effort.”
The committee also debated whether to include an open public consultation in the process. Chair Carol Moffatt expressed concern with the unfocused feedback it might create.
But StrategyCorp principal John Matheson said public consultation has proven valuable elsewhere, using guided specific questions, such as what makes people feel safe or unsafe. He noted how ethnicity could vary responses.
“Very valuable for the report to be able to say, while the fact everybody knows everybody makes some people feel really safe, it actually makes some people feel like they’re not allowed to go there,” Matheson said. “That was maybe something that they needed to hear.
“Almost nobody said stuff along the lines of structurally, we don’t trust our police force,” he further said, adding the feedback was distinct from stories of policing in the United States. “It gave us a much more nuanced, made-in-Ontario version of what the diversity issues are.”
Committee members ultimately agreed on a public consultation, with StrategyCorp proposing one meeting in each of the four townships.
StrategyCorp said the next steps would include the steering committee identifying contacts for an advisory table. The consultant will also develop a detailed work plan and stakeholder engagement plan.
Joseph Quigley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Highlander