Mayor notes emergency measures in place in case of dangerous incident

Ken Kellar

In light of the tragedy that occurred in Nova Scotia last week, Fort Frances Mayor June Caul said she’s looked into ensuring the town has a plan in place in the event something similar should ever happen here.

At Monday’s town council meeting, Mayor Caul began proceedings by sending the town’s condolences to the municipalities in Nova Scotia that saw sudden tremendous violence on April 18 and 19.

“On behalf of town council, staff and our community, I would like to extend my profound sympathy to the residents of Nova Scotia, who are suffering through the despicable tragedy that happened last week,” the mayor said.

“I think all Canadians have been shocked and affected in some way by this terrible situation, and we mourn with the family and friends of all victims.”

Twenty-two people were killed, and three injured, following a mass shooting incident that stretched across several rural municipalities in Nova Scotia. Among the victims were Lisa McNully, an elementary school teacher, Kristen Beaton, a continuing care assistant, and RCMP Const. Heidi Stevenson.

During the mayor’s verbal update, she noted that she had contacted the local OPP to find out what measures were in place to protect the public if something similar were to happen in or near Fort Frances.

“We all need to be aware of the emergency measures that would be used in case of such an emergency,” the mayor said.

“I have spoken with our local OPP to find out about how they handle critical situations.”

Mayor Caul noted that the OPP have more officers on duty at any one time than the RCMP do, and have different methods for notifying officers and the public to emergency situations.

“There is a Command Post in Orillia, Ontario, which is the provincial call centre,” she explained.

“This command post is operated seven days a week, 24 hours a day and monitors all calls across the province. Information from the command post is immediately sent to OPP detachments. All types of social media are set up to receive the same message through monitors set up in all locations, so that information can be released by them to the public.”

The different methods of distributing information would ensure the public, as well as local police and media outlets, would get the information about an emergency situation quickly and from several different sources.

“If you do hear any type of warning, stay indoors and continue to listen to your social network for instructions as to what you should do,” Mayor Caul said.

One criticism that has arisen following the incident in Nova Scotia was the lack of emergency alert, which some say could have been used to alert all cellphones in the area that there was a dangerous situation taking place. While RCMP have noted that they will be looking into why an alert wasn’t issued, Mayor Caul said that the public here would need to realize that information might not come from where they would expect it to.

“We would not hear an Amber Alert unless a child under 18 has been abducted,” she explained.

“That’s what Amber Alert is specifically for, and our local emergency siren is only for warning of a chemical spill or something similar that may cause evacuation. Again, in any case, turn on your radio or other social media device for information on any alert.”

The Nova Scotia shooter was dressed in a police uniform and was driving a car that was made up to look as closely like an RCMP cruiser as possible, which authorities say complicated their response to the emergency, and while the same set of circumstances are unlikely to reoccur, there is a necessity for the public to be vigilant about safety, regardless of where the threat lies.

“I stress to each and every one of you to be proactive in protecting yourself, your family and friends during the COVID-19 pandemic and in all emergency situations,” Mayor Caul said.

“I know it’s a difficult time but we absolutely must continue to follow all the regulations in place to keep our communities safe from illness and death.”

Also included in the Mayor’s verbal update was news that she had spoken to MPP Greg Rickford about several issues impacting life in Fort Frances and the Rainy River District.

“Last Friday I had a telephone conference call with our MPP Minister Rickford and most of the mayors and reeves from this district right through to Red Lake,” she said.

“Minister Rickford said the provincial government and heads of health care are in talks about the second wave of Coronavirus, and their concern that our smaller northern and northwestern Ontario municipalities may be hit much harder during the second wave, and there will be a second wave once the country is gradually opened up again. Because of vastness and remoteness of healthcare facilities in the north, it will cause a much greater risk for anyone who contracted COVID-19, hence another reason to stay focused on our safety measures.”

The Mayor said she also spoke to Rickford about her concerns surrounding the reopening of the Canada-U.S. border, and the disparity in funding given to the Rainy River District Social Services Administration Board compared to other such entities in the area.

“I expressed my concern at that time about the importance of keeping the Canada-U.S. border closed, both on land and on water crossings,” Mayor Caul said.

“Minister Rickford assured me that the border would remain closed for the foreseeable future. I also spoke with Minister Rickford about the continued concern about the homeless, some who have been refused housing due to behaviour issues and the importance of social distancing with this group. I also mentioned the lack of adequate funding given to our local district DSSAB and Minister Rickford assured me he would request more funding for us.”