Friday, September 3, 2004

We've had a spot of trouble here over the weekend. A soggy Bowfest seemed to have ended with a lot of strange activity. Police running around arresting people and pepper spraying youth, folks getting drunk, kids in trees...crazy stuff.

Bowfest is a family festival and usually ends in the night with a band a dancing. There are often house parties afterwards where young people make a lot of noise. I have no doubt that there's drinking and drugs involved, but I've never heard of any major problems.

The past two years though, there has been vandalism, and the local RCMP have called in additional officers to patrol the festival. These guys clearly aren't from the Island, and they aren't familiar with the people who live here or the way we do things. This is not the big city; it's a very small community and everyone pretty much knows each other pretty well. Having off island cops working the festival without any previous exposure to the island is a recipe for disaster.

I know a lot of the people in this story. Ella Barrett, the mayor's daughter, babysits my kids sometimes and is a great kid. She is wise beyond her years in a lot of ways. She was sitting in a tree waiting for a ride when she was stopped and accused of being high. Kids on Bowen sit in trees all the time. It's one of the reasons people move here with their kids.

And I know Corporal Greg Lui as well. He is in my taekwondo class and I spar with him all the time. Earlier in the day he and one of his constables shaved their heads to raise money for cancer. I've talked to him about introducing new cops to the island and having people get to know them a bit. We have good conversations. This year Greg took the initiative of setting up an outdoor leadership training program for at-risk youth here on Bowen which I have heard good things about. He invited me to help out if I was needed, on the basis of the work I do with youth.

So I klnow these people and I like and respect them. There are scads of rumours going around about what happened, and everyone has an opinion. Me, I'm keeping my opinions in check, and instead I'm willing to let the complaintants work out their difficulties between themselves. It's not my place to judge anyone involved in this mess. I'll bear witness to how this all plays out, but I don't see things as black and white here. The kids are not "thugs" and Greg is not the "George W. Bush of Bowen Island." I don't find those characterizatins all that helpful in a small community.

What I do like though is the idea that we engage in a dialogue with our local RCMP about the kind of policing we want here as a community. Our mayor, Ella's mother Lisa, has offered to convene that discussion, and I think that's good. It's a way we can all have a voice in what happens here in the future. Lots of people who weren't involved in the events on the weekend have an opinon. I think we would all be better served as a community if people expressed that energy through a community meeting to talk about what we value here and what we want.