The emotion in Yves Lacasse's voice as he talked Thursday reveals a simple truth — leaving the RCMP for a post with a mining company pushing a controversial project on Kamloops' doorstep won't be easy.
But after 27 years with Canada's national force — eight of them in Kamloops, first as the city's operations commander and finally, detachment commander — the time is right, he said.
A couple of things came together to make it happen, he said. The force, always big on moving officers from town to town, had been hinting that perhaps it was time for Lacasse to make another move, one he didn't want to contemplate.
"My wife and I came here eight years ago and fell in love with it here. The quality of life and where we are living is more important to us. I love Kamloops, I am staying in Kamloops. I don't want to allow the RCMP to dictate where I will go next," he said.
Next, KGHM approached him and made him an offer he believes suits his skills, abilities and ambitions. He will start his next job as KGHM-Ajax's Manager of External Affairs on Feb. 25.
He said he met with KGHM management several times over the past few months and questioned the company hard about its values, goals and means of achieving them. He said he realized his personal values meshed well with their corporate ones.
"It's a company that really cares about the community, and they know I am very passionate about the well-being of everyone in Kamloops. I want to see the city thrive and grow, and I think it can be done through responsible mining," he said.
His job in the coming months will be to help bridge the growing divide that separates proponents and opponents. Lacasse said he's heard a lot of fear and uncertainty about the proposed Ajax mine. He believes there is a need to offer the community information that assuages those concerns.
"Working in this project right now, I am the right person to bring clarity to the issues that people have on their minds. This is what I really enjoy doing. I always believed from day one this (mine) could be done right," he said.
"I know this is a controversial (project). I've had a lot of informal discussions with people involving Ajax. What I find is there is a lot of misinformation – a lack of information. My job will be to provide the community with the information they want and need. Once they have that, I think they will change their minds."
Lacasse is adamant he is not leaving the RCMP for reasons related to issues surrounding the force's management or reputation, nor are there any internal Kamloops problems causing him to leave. None of the challenges the force and his detachment have faced — including criticism about the fatal shooting of a North Shore prolific offender and the so-called jail cell sex scandal — have pushed him out.
He said he is extremely proud of the job the detachment has done moving to proactive policing models, targeting drugs and dealers and working to keep organized gangs from getting a foothold here.
"I am a proud Mountie," he said. "I will continue to be the RCMP's biggest fan."
Kamloops Mayor Peter Milobar said he was surprised to hear the news, but understands Lacasse's rationale in wanting to stay in Kamloops.
"This (job with KGHM) makes that possible," he said.
Milobar said finding a new detachment commander is largely an RCMP matter but the City expects to have input, as it did when Lacasse was promoted.
Regarding Lacasse's move to KGHM, Milobar said the mining company has said it will do things differently, and this is the kind of hire that reflects different thinking.
"He has a career fully demonstrating integrity and honesty," said Milobar. "It will be interesting to see how the community responds. If nothing else, if this brings peace of mind to the community so there is not quite as divisive a relationship (around Ajax), that's a good thing."
Lacasse said it was not easy to tell his staff of his decision to leave the Kamloops detachment. The next few weeks will be difficult, he concedes.
"I just met with my staff and people working here, and it was tough," he said, his voice breaking with emotion. "They are incredible people. Saying good-bye to them will be tough.
"But I won't be going very far."
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Kamloops RCMP Supt. Yves Lacasse has announced he is retiring to take a position with the Ajax mine project. Here is his statement:
It is with mixed emotions that I announce my retirement next month from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police after nearly 27 years of service — the last eight years of which have been here in the great City of Kamloops.
What I am very clear about is the pride I have in the RCMP and our staff in Kamloops and the work we've done as a team to make the city a safer community.
We've reduced crime and worked with the community to resolve issues that have led to a tighter bond amongst citizens.
We introduced world-renowned crime reduction strategies that have helped to keep organized crime and gangs out of Kamloops. We engaged the community and our partners in issue resolution and set clear expectations for the future, allowing us to build strong personal relationships here in Kamloops. Our combined efforts have allowed us to create a department that functions with continuous improvement at its core.
I have enjoyed the role of serving our community as your chief of police, and retiring from the RCMP is not an easy decision.
I have reached the highest position with the RCMP in Kamloops and, in that time, have fallen in love with this community. You have embraced my family and me, and we will be forever grateful and loyal to Kamloops. As a family we have made a decision to remain in Kamloops, and I intend to continue volunteering my time with various organizations, including the United Way.
I am excited to announce that a tremendous opportunity has arisen for me to stay in Kamloops and to play a leadership role in the Ajax Copper-Gold Project, operated by KGHM International. Those who know me know I am passionate about the well-being of the city of Kamloops. This opportunity will allow me to work with the community to inform, consult and resolve issues related to this project.
I know this project has its challenges and its critics, but I want to assure you I will serve in my new role with the well-being of the community in mind, something that is also very important to the company. KGHM International wants to become a community leader and I am excited about the opportunity to work with them and guide our efforts.
I want to thank you for your support and I look forward to working with you in my new role.