By Marcia Love
The Town of Maple Creek is taking extra precautions when it comes to the safety of children and youth in the community.
Eyes were opened across the Southwest to a chilling reality this year when Cabri hockey coach Ryan Chamberlin was sentenced to five years in jail after pleading guilty to three counts of sexual assault and one count of corrupting children while coaching young people.
As a result, the City of Swift Current is making policy changes, and the Town of Maple Creek intends to follow suit.
Council discussed establishing its own child safety bylaw during its regular meeting on May 14.
Swift Current Mayor Jerrod Schafer has been speaking with Sheldon Kennedy – who was recognized with the Order of Canada last week for his dedication to advocating for sexual abuse victims – and the City of Swift Current is now working to create a policy that would require anyone working with youth to have a criminal record check completed. This would be used uniformly within all organizations across the city instead of each having their own policy.
Chamberlin had a previous conviction of sexual assault involving a minor in British Columbia in 1998. But in all his years coaching youth through minor sports organizations and privately, he was never subjected to a criminal record check.
Both Swift Current and Maple Creek want to make sure sex offenders don’t find a way to slip under the radar in the communities again.
Mayor Barry Rudd has discussed the town copying Swift Current’s new policy, which is expected to be in place in June prior to summer programming such as swimming lessons.
“They’re shooting for southwest Saskatchewan now, but they’re hoping it’ll go provincial,” Rudd said of the policy.
Under a child safety bylaw, anyone who will be working with people under the age of 18 will be required to have a criminal record check completed. This would apply to anyone who will be in contact with young people – from music instructors to minor sports coaches. A database of everyone who has had a check completed will be kept at the town office, and the list of individuals who have no criminal record and are able to work with children and youth will be made available to the public online through the town website.
“If you move to town and you want to put your child in guitar lessons, you’d go on there and check out the name of the fellow that’s there and see if he’s on that list,” Rudd explained.
If the name of an individual isn’t on the list, parents are then able to ask that person why they aren’t there.
“If someone doesn’t want to go get a criminal record check, then they just can’t volunteer,” the mayor stated.
Currently, it’s up to each individual club or organization to decide whether or not criminal record checks are mandatory. Minor soccer and figure skating have required them for years. Maple Creek Minor Sports introduced the policy in the fall for hockey, but because it was the first year it was put in place minor sports president Ryan Brown said it was easier for Chamberlin to avoid having one done. The policy will be much more strictly enforced next season, Brown said.
Chinook School Division requires its employees to have both criminal record checks and vulnerable sector checks done. Now all volunteers at the school will also be required to have record checks completed.
In Canada, employers, community agencies and educational institutions can only access a person’s criminal record with that individual’s consent. Criminal record checks are completed by the individual paying a fee of $10 at the town office, then taking the receipt to the RCMP detachment. The record check does not disclose the exact nature of the conviction, but if the individual does not have any convictions the report will state no records were found. However, if one might have a criminal record, the report will indicate a record may or may not exist. The person’s full record can then be obtained if the individual provides his fingerprints to police.
The $10 fee paid for the check is given to South West Victim Services, where it can be accessed by organizations such as SADD for programming.
Rudd noted the town continues to gather information on the policy from Swift Current.
In other business discussed, the town is seeking individuals or organizations interested in operating the town’s new handibus, which is scheduled to arrive today. The chosen individual or group would be responsible for recruiting drivers, scheduling and keeping records.
“It is a huge responsibility, and we don’t generate a lot of revenue from it. It’s a service that we provide the community,” said town administrator Michele Schmidt.
She added the handibus service is in dire need of volunteer drivers.
The town has received provincial funding for the handibus in the amount of $52,046, which will cover 75 per cent of vehicle’s cost. The town will sell its old handibus with the hopes this will cover the remaining cost of $18,700.
Councillor Tina Cresswell reported on the most recent Heritage Advisory Committee meeting. She noted heritage restoration projects are moving along well. Hodson Home Hardware has a contractor lined up to complete its facade restoration through the Maple Creek Main Street Program. She was pleased to report the program has earned the Lieutenant Governor Award through the Architectural Heritage Society of Saskatchewan for commitment to heritage conservation.
The town has received a grant through the Community Airport Partnership for filling cracks in the runway, resealing it and re-painting lines. The Maple Creek airport has been approved on a 50 per cent cost share up to a maximum of $71,300.
The crack filling and runway sealing contract was awarded to Provincial Pothole & Paving out of Wolseley, who will undertake the work at a cost of $108,175. The town will be inquiring with Maple Sealcoating of Medicine Hat about completing line painting at a cost of $6,000.
The town also tendered out three other projects. They include lagoon rip-wrapping, landfill trenching and clearing out drainage ditches on the north side of town. Koncrete Construction Group was awarded the contract to rip wrap a 510-metre section of the lagoon, complete trenching for the garbage pit at the landfill, and dig out ditches along First Avenue North and Walsh Street North. The work will be completed at a total cost of $63,250.
The town regretfully accepted the resignation of secretary Jillian Moch. She was working at the town office casually, but has found full-time employment elsewhere. Moch’s final day will be May 29, and the town will be accepting applications to fill the secretary vacancy.
Council consented to a $500 donation to the SW Sask Oldtimers’ Museum to support the community’s Canada Day celebrations.
Schmidt noted the town has already paid about $800,000 in its Southwest Integrated Healthcare Facility commitment, with over $200,000 in payments remaining.