This summer was unusual in many ways. For some, our area, with its limited number of cases of the new coronavirus disease, was a heaven, the place to be to live through the lockdown. For others it was the place to come to in order to escape the constraints of confinement and enjoy summer pleasures. We all deplored the often aberrant situation this caused at Douglass and Tiffany beaches. The overcrowding, the lack of distancing, the vandalism only seem to get worse as the pandemic endures.
Restricting access to Douglass beach to residents, as initially decided by council, was welcomed by residents. But, enforcing that decision proved impossible. The gentle approach failed. No bylaws can ban incivility. A tougher approach and a security agency had to be brought in. All the police could do was to ticket cars illegally parked all around the beaches.
“Things will have to change,’’ said an impatient Mayor Richard Burcombe at the last council meeting. Himself a police officer for 43 years, he was personally involved in trying to keep things under control at the two beaches this summer. It is not enough. Again, this situation points at the dire lack of police services in our town. With its own police force, the Town could adopt and enforce bylaws that specifically address its needs without necessarily having to harmonize with the 21 municipalities of the MRC, a requirement for the SQ to enforce them.
Having an independent police force is no panacea, but a more visible and constant police presence, more authority to control and ticket those who ignore health and safety rules would definitely have helped. Police could have been called to patrol beaches on a regular basis at the town’s request and issue sanctions as required.
There is a plan and the political will to have Bromont and TBL share police services. This plan is now on hold as Quebec is reviewing all police services in the province. A Green Paper is expected to come out of this at the end of the year.
When the review started there was no coronavirus in the air. Since March, the epidemic has been conveniently used to slow down many decisions. In this case, COVID-19 should be a reason not to slow things down further but, on the contrary, to hurry and come up with a decision and some action. It is not only a question of security but an urgent issue of public health.