Lacasse and Ajax: Kamloops police chief will quit to join mine team
The press release left the Kamloops RCMP detachment at 9:59 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 31, and landed in the email inboxes of Kamloops media outlets seconds later.
"My Blackberry, iPhone and phone have been going absolutely crazy ever since," said Kamloops RCMP Supt. Yves Lacasse, whose dramatic and surprising career shift was documented in that press release.
Lacasse will don the RCMP uniform for the final time on Feb.21 as he retires after 27 years with the national police force, the last eight in Kamloops.
Four days later, on Feb. 25, Lacasse will begin his new career as manager of external affairs for KGHM International, the company planning to build the Ajax copper and gold mine immediately south of Aberdeen.
Lacasse said he was initially approached in early December by a headhunting firm asking if he would be interested in meeting with KGHM senior management.
He was and, soon enough, Lacasse was discussing the proposed mine — and the various opinions it has elicited in Kamloops.
"They knew my opinions were respected in the community," Lacasse said. "Not to sound cocky, but I think I've done a lot in the community."
Lacasse said he has been a supported of the proposed Ajax project from the beginning, noting he was raised in a mining town, Thetford Mines, Que.
"I've seen the benefits of the mining industry," he said, pointing to his volunteer role with the United Way in the past few years, a role that has led to realizing how much community aid comes from Highland Valley Copper, annually the largest donor to the United Way fundraising campaign.
"The mining industry has changed a lot in recent years. When I spoke with senior management staff at KGHM, they see this [Ajax] as an incredible opportunity for Kamloops."
Lacasse said his role will be to get as much information as possible on the mine proposal to those in the community who want it, noting he is well aware of calls, from politicians and residents, for KGHM to be more open with facts and figures associated with the project.
He is also cognizant of the fact many residents are not opposed to mining, but to Ajax's proposed location immediately south of Aberdeen.
"I get that," Lacasse said. "Before Ajax gets a permit, it will have to go through an extensive review process by two levels of government.
"These people want to do things right. They don't want to cut corners. I'm no different than all of you. I've asked the same questions of the [KGHM' leadership. They want to adopt best practices. They don't want to come here to pollute the town."
When Lacasse begins work for KGHM on Feb. 25, he said his goal will be to connect with the community.
"Clearly, I'm not a mining expert," he said. "I'm going to try to get up to speed. I want to help people access the information they want and need. They know I have communicated well with the community as chief of police.
"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."
As for why he is retiring now, Lacasse cited stability, noting his family does not want to leave Kamloops, something that is always a possibility being a Mountie.
"It's about uncertainty, about not being in control of my future," he said. "This gives me the ability to put my family's mind at ease."
In the press release, Lacasse noted the police work done during his eight years with the detachment,
• "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."