Labrador town slams province for ignoring security crisis

By Peter Jackson

 Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

It’s been a year since the town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay pleaded for help from the province to deal with an escalating problem of public security, but the mayor and council say the problems have already returned with no relief in sight.

Now the council has posted a video statement saying the province’s response is simply not good enough.

“We’re frustrated that we can’t seem to get anybody to listen to us to help us,” Mayor George Andrews told The Telegram this week,

Andrews said he warned that lawlessness would heat up again in March when the Labrador Winter Games took place.

The games had to be cancelled mid-stream because of mild weather, and Andrews says his prediction was accurate.

“It absolutely has started,” he said.

Sources have told The Telegram that criminal activity has reached crisis levels in the past few weeks.

There was one report of a sexual assault in broad daylight, and another of a man  attempting to disarm a police officer in the local homeless shelter.

The RCMP confirmed both incidents Thursday.

“I can confirm that Happy Valley-Goose Bay RCMP received a report of a sexual assault on April 4, 2023,” Media relations officer Cpl. Jolene Garland said. “That matter remains under investigation.”

And she said a man is in custody for another incident on March 30.

“Thirty-one-year-old Jonathan Tuglavina is charged with attempting to disarm a police officer, assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest, breach of probation and breaching a condition of a court release order after police responded to a call for service at the shelter on Hillcrest Road.”

“We have always looked at it from a public safety perspective, because it’s the safety of everybody. It’s the safety of folks that are in our town, our community, our kids, our businesses, everything,” Andrew said.

“Where else in the province do you have to have security on from the school, which is probably a half a kilometre from Tim Horton’s, during lunchtime so kids can safely get back and forth to school?”

Asked for reaction, Justice Minister John Hogan issued a joint statement Thursday saying he and other ministers on a crisis response team formed last May are disappointed in the town’s stance.

He said the province has responded with extra funds for security.

“Just over $110,000 was provided to the town in 2022. In addition, the provincial government, through the Department of Justice and Public Safety, has allocated almost $500,000 in Budget

2023 for contracted security services in Happy Valley-Goose Bay,”

he said. “When this funding allocation was communicated to the mayor last week, we were surprised with the angered response.”

But Andrews says the budget allocation caught the town off guard, and that any such measures are insufficient regardless.

The town is trying to hire a new municipal enforcement officer, although it’s had little success.

Andrews says no privately hired security personnel can deal with crimes because they have no enforcement powers.

The ministerial statement pointed to other measures, including the addition of an extra RCMP patrol and a long-term proposal for a purpose-built homeless shelter and apartment complex.

Hogan and the RCMP deputy commissioner visited the town in November 2022 to discuss the issue with residents.

“Residents have expressed since that time that they were pleased with the increased visibility and RCMP patrols,” Hogan said.

Andrews says the extra RCMP shift is insufficient.

He said between Happy Valley-Goose Bay and the Innu community of Sheshatshiu, the workload is too much for the small detachment.

Lake Melville MHA Perry Trimper recently told The Telegram he’s worried some residents might take matters into their own hands.

Andrews says that’s already happened.

“We had one gentlemen last year whose kids were threatened by some folks, and he took an ax and went to find them,” he said. “He got charged.”

Last fall, several residents told The Telegram the public safety crisis is a separate issue from homelessness, but Hogan’s statement made it clear that’s still not how the government sees it.

“As a government, we maintain our position that correctional facilities are not an appropriate solution to help transiently homeless and homeless individuals,” he said.

 Peter Jackson is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with THE TELEGRAM. The LJI is a federally funded program.


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