An open letter to the Honourable Suzanne Anton, Attorney General and Minister of Justice:
I am writing on behalf of the Boundary Area Retired Teachers’ Association to express our concern over a recent violent attack on a senior in our community.
On Jan. 11, a 70-year-old senior was on his routine morning walk through downtown Grand Forks when he encountered a young man with a “shiny red baseball bat.” This young man told the senior that someone had knocked on his or his neighbour’s door and then suddenly attacked him with the baseball bat.
The senior was struck on the head and the body; but fortunately, he was able to escape to a nearby business where he called 911. The young attacker fled the scene and the RCMP were dispatched.
Later that same day, the police were able to identify “a person of interest”; however, to this date (Jan. 28), there have been no charges laid nor have the police issued a further report on the status of their investigation. Despite the violent and random nature of this incident, the public has had few assurances that the security of the community has been restored.
As educators in small rural communities, we have experienced the increase in mental health needs over the years and the paucity of services that have been provided. In the past two years alone, we have seen the destruction of two historic hotels and extensive fire damage to our city hall. In both cases the offenders were dealing with progressive mental health issues.
Whatever the cost for providing additional outreach services for those with mental health needs, it is not as expensive as ignoring those needs.
As rural educators we have also seen what damage rumour can cause to an individual and their families. While the police are being careful not to identify the “person of interest,” the community has already jumped to the conclusion that the perpetrator is a well-known local resident. It is distressing to see someone, who may be innocent, targeted in this way. We can only hope that the police will clarify this shortly by identifying their “person of interest.”
Finally, as seniors we are reassessing our safety in this community. As the police have not assured the public that there is no current risk, many of us are starting to change how we commute, preferring now to drive more and walk less. For many in this retirement community, it means giving up the very thing that attracted us to retire here. Without clear communication from the police, our lifestyle has been put at risk.
In closing, we hope that the local RCMP detachment can make a strong effort to communicate and to engage the community when there are serious incidents. We also hope that the provincial government together with the health authorities can prioritize the delivery of mental health services for rural communities.
Anne Verigin, secretary
Boundary Area Retired Teachers’ Association,
A branch of BCRTA—British Columbia Retired Teachers’ Association