STONEY NAKODA – Stoney Nakoda First Nation residents who are the vicitms of crime will no longer have to drive more than 30 km to give a statement at the Cochrane or Canmore RCMP detachments after a new community office opens in Morley at the end of the month .
Located a mere five minute drive from the Morley town site, home to the three bands, Wesley, Chiniki and Bearspaw within the Stoney Nakoda Nation, the new satellite RCMP Morley Community Policing Office will give residents the opportunity to give statements and have access to victim services programs in their own community.
"It is very helpful because it can be hard for community members to meet out of the [Nation], so now we can meet with community members and give them the support they need," said Const. Jennifer Brewer with the Cochrane RCMP.
Working with the Nation for the last year and a half as one of the two Community Tripartite Policing Agreement (CTA) members – a position created through the government where officers are meant to devote 100 per cent of their working hours to policing the needs of the First Nation – Brewer said there has been a desire to establish this new office "for some time."
Created in partnership with the Cochrane RCMP, the Cochrane and Area Victim Services and the Stoney Nakoda Tribal Administration, the office will officially open at the end of the month.
"Right now we won't have a clerk, so we cannot do the criminal record checks or fingerprints, but we are going to be around for people who want to talk ... this is a community that we serve and they do have quite a population to serve," Brewer said noting RCMP will be able to take written and verbal statements at the new office once it opens.
Officers will also have the option, instead of driving back and forth to the Cochrane RCMP detachment, from a Nation that spans more than 52 square kilometres, to complete their paperwork in the satellite location, situated at the former Chiniki Store Front, parallel to the Chiniki Gas Station off the Trans-Canada Highway.
"We can do all our work and be accessible, and on the flip side, the community also wanted more RCMP presence," Brewer said.
Similar to any other rural community, Stoney Nakoda has faced its issues over the years, ranging from housing, poverty, addictions, domestic assaults and homicides.
Now Cochrane and Area Victim Services will also be able to provide their services with the Indigenous Victim Outreach Specialist based out of the same office.
"I've certainly noticed more people are accessing our services, people are willing to come and meet with me ... I've received nothing but positive messages from people in Morley," Daphne Hollins, the victim services Indigenous outreach specialist said.
Hollins noted the distance to travel and some people's discomfort with RCMP detachments initially created a barrier with the victim services offered out of Cochrane, but since the creation of her position and shifting her outreach work to the First Nation community, residents are happy with the changes.
"There are so many barriers to accessing our services outside the [reserve], so this position really does address those barriers," she said.
The RCMP is inviting the public to the grand opening of the office at the end of the month.
"This is such a huge step in the direction to build positive relationships and for reconciliation," Brewer said.
The grand opening of the RCMP Morley Community Policing Office is kicking off on Aug. 29 at 11 a.m. with a blessing ceremony and barbecue to follow. The office will be officially open after the ceremony.