The Victoria Day long weekend may be over for another year but stakeholders are still talking about it and working on ways to put a stop to the random violence and threatening atmosphere it has come to be known for.
The RCMP is planning on bringing in more resources next year and is in discussions with its legal department about how firm a line they can take with potential troublemakers.
It is also considering moving some of its officers off traffic duty and onto the streets and into local parks as more and more young people take the bus from the Lower Mainland to party in Whistler, rather than drive.
RCMP Staff Sgt. Steve LeClair would also like to see some sort of family event introduced on the May long weekend to encourage families to come and youths to party elsewhere.
“I plan on being here for the next four to five years and my thoughts are that we change this weekend into something that can be enjoyed by families without fear of people causing problems in the village,” he said.
“We are talking to our municipal partner about that… It is something on the radar.”
Discussions on that front are at an early stage. In the meantime LeClair said police are considering using the same sort of enforcement they use for New Year’s Eve, where police can arrest confrontational people they understand are likely to continue the behaviour.
“…So instead of just separating the factions and sending them on their way only to have them start trouble again we will review and determine if perhaps they can be arrested for causing disturbance, to prevent the continuation of events.
“I firmly believe that that type of policing will assist the peaceful public in enjoying the village more appropriately.”
At least one person, and possibly three, was stabbed after being confronted by a group of young men in the village May 17. There were several other reports of groups of young men provoking individuals.
Whistler is not alone in experiencing this type of problem. In the last week police at English Bay in Vancouver had to use pepper spray and a helicopter to help disperse 1,500 to 2,000 unruly people. In Penticton an Ontario man was stabbed to death during a fight involving two groups of people at a beach, and police had to be called in to break up rowdy behaviour in North Vancouver.
In Whistler, local artist Chili Thom witnessed some of the problems first hand. He was painting a mural in the skateboard park bowl when a group of five men from the Lower Mainland began to harass him. Thom repeatedly asked the men to tone down their noise, drinking and so on but over time the group became more aggressive, eventually stealing some paint and refusing to give it back.
“It was a really fun, really enjoyable evening and then you just get these nuisances offering up death threats and basically it’s like they think it is fun to come up and see how much they can get away with in Whistler,” said Thom, adding that he usually leaves town the Victoria Day long weekend and never takes a DJ gig.
“They just come up looking for trouble. They don’t mountain bike, they don’t go up the mountain, they don’t do anything but come here and drink and gang up on people 12 to one.”
For former Whistler resident Bob Davis it’s heartbreaking to see the resort’s decline in this way.
“I just hate seeing this happening,” he said, adding that he would like some of Whistler’s councillors to spend the night in the village on patrol.
“It really bothers me to see this happening in Whistler and it has for a long time and I have felt like writing letters in past year and I just think it has got to be fixed. It really does. It is sad.”
Councillor Bob Lorriman, who has been following the problems closely and working with resort stakeholders on it said council is taking the issue very seriously.
“We are not sitting back and thinking everything is OK by any stretch of the imagination,” he said.
“I’m sure amongst ourselves (council) we will be having some conversations. I can tell you that council is very concerned about it. The RCMP is very concerned. Tourism Whistler is concerned, and we will come back and re-group.
“This is not happening inside our tolerance level. We are not prepared to continue to tolerate what is going on. So (the question now is) what are we prepared to give up or put into the plan to change things.”
He is not convinced that just putting more money into policing — during a budget crunch — is the only answer.
“There is only much we can do, and the RCMP is frustrated because there is only so much it can do, so that is why we have to start thinking outside the box and if it is programming that we need to do, great, but we are going to have to spend some money,” said Lorriman.
“Maybe that is what we have to do.”
There may also be a role for the provincial government to play in providing resources, he said.
And the issue of accommodations with no front desks also needs to be looked at.
“I don’t think anyone is sitting back saying we can’t do anymore than we are currently doing,” said Lorriman.
“We are saying we have to be able to do more.”