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Vice-president Cindy McQueen on hand for 12th launch of CUPE BC program

VERNON—The latest B.C. community to adopt CUPE BC’s highly-regarded City Watch initiative rolled out the program on Tuesday with an outdoor press conference in front of City Hall that emphasized the important role that civic workers play in improving public safety.

CUPE BC general vice-president Cindy McQueen, who travelled to Vernon on the long weekend to host the launch, joined CUPE 626 first vice-president Colleen van Dyk, Vernon councillor Jack Gilroy, RCMP Safe Communities Unit city manager Terry Pakenham, RCMP Supt. Steve McVarnock, and Vernon Fire Rescue chief Jeff Carlisle at the brief media event, the twelfth in the province.

“We are very proud to be here in Vernon with the local, the RCMP, Fire Rescue and the City of Vernon,” said McQueen, bringing greetings on behalf of CUPE’s B.C. division.

CUPE BC’s initiative for City Watch is in over 11 communities across this province. We’ve found successes in all of the communities where City Watch has been implemented. We’ve had members of the parks department help when people avoided drowning, we’ve had members being the first response at an accident site. And it’s not to intervene or to apprehend: the role of our members is to identify the activity, to call for help to 911, and identify that they’re City Watch.”

McQueen added that the RCMP’s City Watch training component, which teaches CUPE members to anticipate and identify suspicious activity, has helped to prevent crime in all communities where City Watch is in effect.

Gilroy read a statement on behalf of Mayor Wayne Lippert that praised the union for bringing the program to the Okanagan community.

“Without the sponsorship of CUPE and our local 626 employees, the City Watch program would not have been possible,” said Gilroy.

“City Watch is one of the most value-added initiatives that any community would be fortunate in having, and Vernon considers itself one of those communities. On behalf of the residents of Vernon, I would like to extend my appreciation to the program developers, and we look forward to our continued involvement with City Watch.”

Jeff Carlisle, chief of Vernon Fire Watch, emphasized the role civic workers can play in fire prevention, as well as crime prevention.

“I can tell you that for every fire service in North America, its primary focus is fire prevention—it’s not about us going to burning buildings and rescuing people,” said Carlisle.

“City Watch is a mechanism that we put in place with the CUPE local and city staff to be the eyes and ears for the community in terms of safety.

This is a great program—and in Vernon it will be about 300 sets of eyes that are out there.”

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