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Squamish community grapples with campground attacks



Squamish Mayor Ian Sutherland said something positive is spinning out of two separate violent attacks on tourists at the same local campground in July.

Last week roughly 150 Squamish residents rallied together at the Best Western Hotel to voice their frustrations with the attacks. They also offered different suggestions to curb youth violence in their community.

"Everything that happens you can make it into a positive or you can make it into a negative," said Sutherland the day after the meeting.

"This is a good step for us."

In July Squamish was cast in a negative light after a group of youths attacked visitors at a local campground on two separate occasions. Property was destroyed, campers were terrorized and some were also assaulted.

In a response to the attacks, James Miller, founding director of the Vancouver-based organization End Youth Violence, planned the community meeting to address concerns in the community. He was very pleased with the outcome.

"The whole community really stepped up to the plate and offered some very positive feedback and suggestions and voiced their frustrations, which I think is a big start to a very long road to dealing with this problem," said Miller.

"(It) was just a small stepping stone to get the ball rolling in terms of a whole community starting to look at what they’re doing and try to develop programs together... to build a bridge between the youth and the community."

Residents were emotional at the start of the meeting as they talked about the July attacks.

"It was frustration I guess that Squamish was being singled out as being different from everybody else and I don’t think we are," said Sutherland, adding that youth violence is a North-America wide problem, not just a Squamish phenomenon.

But residents were also angry about the level of youth violence in their community.

"There was just frustration in general (and) the fact that people had stories about problems that they’ve had in the past with vandalism or break-ins or encounters with youth in the streets and things like that, so it was just a bit of a venting process I guess," added Sutherland.

The meeting then took a more practical turn as a wide range of community members, including teens, parents and the police, explored some solutions and talked about issues facing the community.

"People made suggestions (of) things that might make it easier for youth in the community, anywhere from part-time jobs to more facilities to maybe adults treating the youth with a bit more respect and not assuming they’re all bad people," said Sutherland.

A new skateboard park is currently in the planning stages and is slated to go next to the high school. In addition, a multi-screen movie theatre is coming to the Canadian Tire complex in the spring.

But these are just parts of the solution, according to the mayor.

"There’s also a big part of parental responsibility as well," he said.

"Parents have a responsibility to make sure that their children get to take part in things."

Sutherland added that it’s the youth with time on their hands that generally get into the most trouble.

Six youth could be facing up to 14 charges in connection with the campground attacks, ranging from assault, mischief and cause and disturbance.

"We do have individuals who were involved in both (incidents)," said Staff Sergeant Cliff Doherty.

The six people are a mixture of male and female youth in their late teens and early 20s.

Police should know within the week whether formal charges will come from their recommendations.

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