With the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association’s (SUMA) annual convention scheduled for April, city council plans to submit resolutions — for the first time — focusing on child exploitation and truth and reconciliation.
SUMA is the voice for all municipalities and presents its members’ interests to the provincial and federal governments, leading to improved local government and sustainable communities, a council report explained. Municipalities can use the resolutions to highlight issues that require action by other governments or agencies.
The annual convention is from April 3 to 6 in Regina. While the deadline for resolutions is Monday, Jan. 31, city hall convinced SUMA to push the deadline to Feb. 15, so council could craft and submit its resolutions.
During council’s Jan. 24 regular meeting, it unanimously approved two resolutions it wanted the convention to consider.
The first resolution wanted SUMA to update its truth and reconciliation (TRC) policy and develop concrete programs and projects to support this issue. The resolution noted that the final TRC report came out in 2015 while SUMA adopted a TRC policy in 2017. However, nearly four years later, council — via city administration — wanted more progress on this issue.
The resolution also noted that the City of Moose Jaw continues to develop its relationship with local and provincial Aboriginal groups to acquire advice and guidance and create opportunities for everyone.
The second resolution asked the provincial government to provide additional money to police services and communities working to combat internet child exploitation (ICE), so they can add investigators and handle more child sexual exploitation issues.
Moreover, the province should expand the ICE program into other communities while ensuring cross-agency engagement and promoting public awareness about this problem.
The resolution noted that from 2016 to 2020, there were 2,321 incidents of sexual violence against children recorded in Saskatchewan, including 304 incidents of accessing or possessing child pornography and 552 incidents of distributing child porn.
Furthermore, there has been an 88-per-cent increase in online reports to CyberTip Canada since the pandemic began, while one in four parents has come across inappropriate material aimed at their child.
Coun. Dawn Luhning had concerns about the resolution, noting the Board of Police Commissioners oversees the police service’s budget. With this motion, she thought that elected officials were interfering in the police budget even though they did not have input into it.
“… I just worry about the optics because in how the resolution is worded, it is worded that it’s just for cities to get additional funding,” she added.
Those statistics are from Police Chief Rick Bourassa, while previous resolutions to SUMA have focused on the RCMP and municipalities have no say in what that agency does, said Coun. Crystal Froese, the proposer of the resolution.
“When the police force came to us at budget and presented their programming and services, they made it apparent that their ICE area is under-resourced and has an extreme burden to carry … ,” Froese said. “They’ve seen during the pandemic this incredible increase of soliciting children online.”
Most ICE funding and programs are in Saskatoon, Regina and Prince Albert, and while the provincial government funds some of those positions, it does help Moose Jaw, she continued. She wasn’t attempting to tell the province how to spend its money but noted that other communities need money for ICE initiatives.
“I believe this is really important,” she added. “Plus, this is an issue that is not talked about or has a high-enough profile in our province. And it is a growing issue.”
The next regular council meeting is Monday, Feb. 14.