RCMP officer Chris Voller was honoured at a gathering hosted by Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw members. (Zoe Ducklow photo)

RCMP officer Chris Voller was honoured at a gathering hosted by Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw members. (Zoe Ducklow photo)

Officer Chris Voller says farewell to the North Island

“One of the biggest impacts you can have is having a pre-existing relationship with an individual.”

RCMP officer Chris Voller is moving on after nine years on the North Island, and he’s quick to say how much he’ll miss it.

“Besides the landscape which is so obviously beautiful, the most striking part is the sense of community. People know each other here, and not just their immediate neighbour, but the person down the street,” he said.

It’s good for policing since the familiarity helps police officers spot anything amiss – something much more difficult to do in larger communities.

Voller sees policing primarily as a community service. The reactionary aspects — arrests, incarceration, warrants, interventions, etc. — are always there, but to him, real police work happens in the months and years before those moments happen.

“One of the biggest impacts you can have is having a pre-existing relationship with an individual,” Voller said. Having an established sense of trust or respect makes things a lot easier to handle when police intervention is required — and in the best case scenario, prevents the need for police intervention.

Port Hardy mayor Dennis Dugas says Voller’s involvement in the community has made a noticeable change.

“When you have a leader who wants to work with people and help them be better, it’s not like the old days when if someone gets out of line you throw them into jail. It’s not like that anymore,” Dugas said.

Voller sees it as an obligation to look for the root of what leads people towards criminal behaviour.

“Each circumstance and each client needs to be humanized and have a tailored approach,” he said. Policing for him means involving community partners to get people the help they need, reducing the need for police interactions.

Voller’s relational approach is not in the absence of challenging policing situations. Between 2009 and 2018 Port Hardy’s crime rate (147.5) was almost double the B.C. average (78.3). This is a measure of criminal code offences per 1,000 residents, excluding traffic violations. A quarter of the crimes committed were violent offences.

Port Hardy’s crime rate has decreased over the decade to 131 in 2018 from 179 in 2009.

READ MORE: Port Hardy RCMP announce charges in three separate drug busts

READ MORE: North Island First Nation youth commended by RCMP for his commitment to community

READ MORE: Port Hardy Mounties help First Nation chief build smokehouse

Voller’s relationships with the four local First Nations — Kwakiutl, Quatsino, Gwa’sala and ‘Nakwaxda’xw — have been a big part of his work towards making the RCMP achieve a culturally competent policing level.

Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw councillor Darryl Coon said, “Big gilakas’la to him, stepping in after Constable Starr left, and filling in his role. He’s very outgoing, very receptive to the community. He’s always willing to help out in any way he could when called upon,.”

The relationship between that First Nation and the RCMP has not always been positive, as Coon well knows. Years ago the conflict was so bad that the band council sent Coon to talk with the officer in charge.

Since then things have improved to the point where RCMP are invited to birthday parties and gatherings. Relationship-building has become a main focus, an especially critical thing to retain since RCMP staff come and go every few years.

One thing Voller wishes he could see through is a project initiated by the Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw First Nations to create an Indigenous court in Port Hardy. It’s still in process though, so even though his North Island time is up, Voller says he’ll stay as involved as needed to make sure the Indigenous court gets approved.

“I believe that we have at the ability to impact people’s quality of life. The decisions we make and the situations that we have influence on are often life-changing circumstances for people,” he said.

“It really comes down to treat people the way you want to be treated.”

Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email: zoe.ducklow@blackpress.ca


RCMP

Just Posted

North Island MLA Michele Babchuk. Photo contributed
COMMENTARY: MLA Michele Babchuk talks the future of forestry

‘These forests are important to every single one of us, myself included’

Dr. Prean Armogam hands over a cheque for $10,000 to Hardy Bay Senior Citizens Society president Rosaline Glynn. The money will be going towards a new roof for the Port Hardy seniors centre. This is the second donation Dr. Armogam has made to the society, giving them $5,000 a little over a year ago. (Tyson Whitney - North Island Gazette)
Doctor donates $10k to Hardy Bay Senior Citizens Society for new roof

This was the second donation Armogam has given to the society

New COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island by local health area for the week of May 30-June 5. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control image)
COVID-19 cases drop again almost everywhere on Vancouver Island

Nanaimo had four new cases last week, down from 22 the week before

Blueprints for the seniors housing project in Port Hardy. (North Island Seniors Housing Foundation photo)
BC Housing declines North Island Seniors Housing Foundation’s proposal to build units

BC Housing will be explaining why exactly the project was declined at a June 18 meeting

An aerial view of the marine oil-spill near Bligh Island in Nootka sound that the Canadian Coast Guard posted in a live social media feed in December. ( Canadian Coast Guard/Facebook)
Oil from vessel that sank in 1968 off Vancouver Island to be removed

DFO hires Florida firm to carefully remove oil from MV Schiedyk in Nootka Sound starting in mid-June

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Most Read