Making an emergency call in Eden Valley, Alta., got easier last year thanks to an RCMP officer's initiative to bring more telephone service to the community.
The rural area, about an hour and a half drive southwest of Calgary, sits on the Bearspaw First Nation, part of the Stoney Tribal Administration, and home to nearly 700 people. Nearby mountains have prevented reliable cellphone service and telephones were out of reach for many residents.
While the Bearspaw First Nation offers telecommunications services in Eden Valley, infrastructure limitations and household budget constraints meant not every home had a telephone.
RCMP Cst. Desmond Jackson wanted to help after learning the lack of phone service delayed a police response.
There was a call for service where the victim didn't have access to a phone and couldn't call 911," says Jackson. "
Someone in the house had to run to the neighbour's a kilometre and a half away."
Jackson began making calls and spoke with Eden Valley leadership about expanding phone service. He connected the Chief and Council with Telus, and they eventually reached an agreement to secure telephone service for almost 50 households with costs covered by the Bearspaw First Nation.
Throughout the process, Jackson led the way consulting with Eden Valley residents. He knocked on every door in the community asking residents to complete a questionnaire about telephone service.
That was a very important part of the equation. There was proper consultation between the RCMP, Telus, and the First Nation leadership and council," says Jackson. "
The RCMP typically brings bad news, so we have to get through those barriers."
As of last October, many of the almost 50 households in Eden Valley have a telephone and can contact police, fire and ambulance in case of an emergency. While winter weather delayed installation at some homes, the work will continue when weather permits.
It's a relief for our nation members who never had access before," says Bearspaw First Nation Chief Darcy Dixon. "
Projects like this help us work toward common goals and create a partnership among the local RCMP detachment and the community."
Hopeton Lauden, Bearspaw First Nation chief administrative officer, says the project is a good example of community policing making a difference.
Knowing what's important for a safer community and taking initiative helps build a bridge between and RCMP and our community," says Lauden.