The first speaker in our 2007 Speaker Series, Armand LaBarge, chief of police for the GTAs York Region (population 900,000) fascinated members with his well-detailed outline of police services in the region that stretches from east to the west north of Toronto.
His talk focused on diversity in a growing multicultural region.La Barge was accompanied by Staff Sergeant Ricky S. Veerappan (born in South Africa) and Constable Paul Chiang (born in Pakistan), both of whom joined in the lengthy Q and A session following the chiefs address.
The region, where 70 differentlanguages are spoken, has an overall diversity rate of 35 percent, rising to 55 percent in the Markham area, and recruitment since 2001 has risen to 13 percent of minorities from 6 percent.
A barrier to recruitment of younger men continues to remain parental, with older generations retaining memories of police brutality in their homelands. In many of the old countries, the police as a profession, ranks low on the totem pole. However, he chief said, these barriers are gradually breaking down.
Oddly enough, said Chief La Barge, the number one policing problems in York region are traffic-related: speeding, ignoring signals and other violations, drunk driving and street racing.
As a member of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police he is strongly opposed to the scraping of the Gun Registry, as flawed as it might have been. He cited the cases of domestic violence involving firearms in which registration is often vital in providing evidence.
Chief La Barges address was marked by total franknmess and subjects from the detection of grow-ops, and the alarming rise in the use of crystal meth in Western Canada to organized crime were among the many subjects he raised.