The Town Meeting

Source of Image: Quote Fancy

The room was nowhere near full but there were nonetheless a lot of us there: say, 150 people, or 10% of our community’s population, which any small-town municipal employee would tell you is a roaring success.

Our local provincial MLA (Minister of the Legislative Assembly) was there to warmly and casually greet us at the door – many by name – and also to officiate the proceedings. My husband and I quietly commented to one another that this was a good first sign we were being taken seriously. The speakers were all clustered at the front of the school auditorium. There were three RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) officers, including one who would turn out to be the spokesperson throughout, and the just-appointed-that-week Minister of Public Safety.

Our MNA wasted no time calling the meeting to order and inviting the speakers to briefly tell us who they were and what they do. One by one, each guest speaker briefly gave us a synopsis of their duties and responsibilities. I didn’t get all the names or their titles; honestly, I was much more focussed on what they had to say. The last to introduce himself was the RCMP spokesperson. Like everywhere else in this country, he told us regretfully, there is a drug problem in our community and yes, that has indeed led to a number of break-ins, petty thefts and not-so-petty thefts as addicts desperately seek ways to feed their addictions and run their backwoods meth labs. He acknowledged the lack of resources in the area since our small community lost its little RCMP detachment a number of years ago. And then without further ado, he invited the community members in the audience to address the panel with their questions.

I was taken aback and glanced over at my husband in confusion. The publicity for the meeting had implied that we would be presented with suggestions and information as to how we could better protect ourselves from the thievery and other petty crime that has been going on all around us for several years now. Why were they already handing the floor over to us I wondered? We’re the target. We’re the victims, or the potential victims. How on earth would giving us the floor be helpful? We live in a rural farming community. With the exception of the well-to-do owners of local businesses and factories, the common folk in rural communities aren’t usually that well off. Most cannot afford security systems. Many can’t even afford insurance. When someone steals your tractor, or your truck, or your equipment, they are stealing your livelihood.

As one hour morphed into two, the community members became increasing more agitated and vocal. I was so confused. And I wasn’t alone: I could hear folks all around me frustratedly muttering to one another. Eventually, though, as more and more people stepped up to the microphone, the anger, frustration and fear was pouring out of every single person in attendance. Suggestions – really great suggestions – were being made by members of the community. A few extremely frustrated citizens who were prepared to take the law onto their own hands were being informed of the legal repercussions. “Maybe this is a good thing; maybe they planned it this way,” I whispered to my husband. “Maybe we all needed to get this off our chests before they could provide us with some recommendations.” My husband, who attended many meetings such as this one throughout his career but usually as an invited guest, doubtfully raised his eyebrows in my direction.

At some point, however, it became clear that suggestions from the stage would not be forthcoming. It was also becoming obvious that most of the guest speakers had said all they were going to say that evening, when they introduced themselves. Warmed up a bit now, a few people from the audience bravely stood up and said as much. One of the younger RCMP police officers who was not on the stage, finally took pity on the group and stood to make a few suggestions that were actually helpful. ‘’Get a dog,” he suggested. “Lock your car doors and don’t leave your engine running. Lock the doors of your house.” You would think these suggestions would be self evident but here in the rural part of our province, folks are still pretty trusting. The last car I know of that was stolen was left running. I know people who don’t lock up their homes when they go on vacation.  When my husband and I first arrived here seven years ago, people thought we were ‘quaint’ for locking our car doors.

Two hours had now passed and all we had learned is that we can’t do anything but take a photo or shoot a video if someone is breaking into our house. And because of the size of our territory, the likelihood that a police officer will show up if we call 911 is pretty much nil. We also learned that if we are broken into enough times, our insurance will be cancelled.

I had come to the meeting prepared to do whatever the police told us to do to make our property safer. Instead – along with the entire crowd in attendance – I was feeling decidedly vulnerable, alone and unsafe. My husband – who, in our old province, used to work with a variety of community organisations that included provincial police, school boards, Health and Social services, community organisations and municipalities in the prevention of petty crime, drug and alcohol abuse and even teenaged prostitution, stood up to suggest such a collaboration of services here in our community. The crowd had barely finished warmly applauding his suggestion when the RCMP spokesperson quickly and bluntly shot him down “Who headed it up, and who funded it?” was his only response.

Because that, of course, was the real crux of the issue. There is no extra funding to keep our area safe from thievery. None. Not a dime. Just like there is no funding to hire enough nursing staff in our hospitals; or funding to open up spaces for nursing students in our universities, or funding for an adequate number of caregivers for our seniors’ homes; or funding for salaried fire fighters, especially in smaller communities like ours (80% of Canadian firefighters are volunteers).

Our systems aren’t working very well anymore. Our provincial and our federal governments are increasingly bureaucratic; increasingly inefficient; increasingly passing the buck, increasingly doing a whole lot of talking and taking very little action; just waiting for the next election to make a lot of empty promises they know they cannot keep and are no longer even expected to keep. Our municipalities – the organisations that actually know us – are doing what they can but they are understaffed and woefully underfunded. And who knows if the people who know us best – our municipalities – are even listened to at the provincial or federal levels?

There is no thinking outside the box, and the box is coming apart at the seams.

Two hours after the presentation had begun, a young mother stood up to speak. Her beautiful skin colour and her lovely accent clearly marking her as a new Canadian, she spoke eloquently about how unsafe she was feeling; about how much safer she had felt living in downtown Toronto, not that long ago. “You know how, even when you are driving the speed limit on the highway and you see a police car? You know how you automatically slow down?” she asked the invited guests, to the warm laughter of the crowd. “Well, that never happens here because I never see a police car on the highway. Never.”

As if the subdued murmurs of the crowd to that unsettling thought were our signal, my husband and I looked at one another and stood up to leave. There would be no help offered here this evening. By the time we got to our car, the rest of the crowd was following behind. I’m not sure if someone officially adjourned the meeting or if everyone, like us, was just too disheartened to stay.

Civilisations can and do fall. Just look at the Romans. Or the Mayans.

I wonder if this is how it begins.

Patti Moore Wilson/©




Author: Patti Moore Wilson, wednesdayschild2

I write what I feel. And I rarely know exactly what I feel until I write. I have lived long enough to have known many joys and many sorrows. I have made many mistakes; I have forgiven myself for a few… I have learned that there are lessons in every step of this journey, if we only take the time to pay attention… I hope you will feel free to pick and choose the stories that resonate for you…

14 thoughts on “The Town Meeting”

      1. Don’t do it, darlin’.

        Us first-wavers are retired for reasons.

        Let the younger ones duke out the details, they may refer to us for wisdoms if they feel that call.

        Please go to my site search bar and request the poem “Efforts Have Timelines.”

        Your writing is enough, and more than enough.

        Be at peace in this changing world ~ that is the example we are here now to provide, and more than enough for us to do. 👩‍❤️‍👩

        Liked by 2 people

  1. Patti, this is such a troubling narrative. Your obviously justifiable frustration and concern are almost palpable. It sounds like you and your neighbors must band together to protect yourselves and one another–figuring out how to do so in a way that doesn’t get you in trouble with law enforcement and insurers. Not an easy task for sure. Best of luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Annie 🙏💕 it’s a frustration a lot of people living in rural communities are going through, I’m afraid. But we do have AMAZING neighbours, I am happy to say. We would all call on one another in a heartbeat if we needed to, and we all look out for one another. Oh yes, and we have a very loud – and good sized – dog…


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