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Saanich calls for reinstatement of school police liaisons in Greater Victoria

The program was discontinued in 2023 following a recommendation from B.C.’s human rights commissioner
Grade 4 student Thomas was among one of the dozen at a Feb. 26, 2024 rally for school police liaison officers to return to Greater Victoria schools. (Ella Matte/News Staff)

The cancelling of the school police liaison program in the Greater Victoria School District has so far brought protests, letters from distraught parents and foreboding statements by the chief of the Victoria Police Department about increased gang activity.

Now, the Saanich council has weighed in, deciding to send a letter to the Greater Victoria School District (SD 61) board chair asking for the liaison positions to be reinstated in the district.

“This is where the district of Saanich puts its metaphorical stake in the ground,” Coun. Colin Plant, who is also a teacher at Claremont Secondary School, said at the Monday (March 11) council meeting.

The liaison program was discontinued in SD 61 in 2023, following a statement by the B.C. Human Rights Commissioner recommending the programs end unless evidence could be presented to show they are effective, and for the tasks of liaisons to be performed by others, such as counsellors.

READ MORE: Human Rights Commissioner calls for an end to police officer program in B.C. schools

Since then, rallies have been held by parents complaining the loss of the program makes students more susceptible to gang-related recruitment and recriminations.

A petition calling for the reinstatement of the liaisons has also been started on that had 775 signatures as of Wednesday.

Claremont is in Saanich Schools District (SD 63), and still has the liaison program. While acknowledging he was speaking anecdotally, Plant said he has not heard criticism of the program in his district.

“I have never heard a parent, a student, a staff member, a community member say that they didn’t want to see the police in the school,” Plant said.

Plant added that instead of having to prove why the police liaisons are necessary, as per the suggestion of the human rights commissioner, the district should have kept the program unless there were reasons found for the police not to be there.

He also acknowledged that the school board has a right to make the decision, but as the body that funds the police, the municipality has a stake in it too.

“We are not just bystanders to this, we are stakeholders in the safety of our community,” he said.

Other councillors spoke about the ability for students to learn from their engagement with officer. Coun. Teale Phelps Bondaroff called the cancellation a “disservice” to students at the schools.

Coun. Nathalie Chambers brought the issue forward, prompting the motion to send the letter to the school board. Councillors were unanimous in their support.

READ MORE: Increased gang activity brings call for police in Greater Victoria schools

About the Author: Mark Page

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