The Cariboo Regional District (CRD) board has concerns about the removal of public pay phones across the province, and is taking the issue to the next levels of government.
CRD chair Al Richmond says a related resolution the board tabled at the recent North Central Local Government Association (NCLGA) conference was successful.
The membership voted to lobby higher levels of government with the message that public phones are necessary in rural communities.
Richmond notes public pay phones are being removed from the Alexis Creek, Tatla Lake and Anahim Lake areas, where there is no cell service available.
This phone removal process may spread to many other areas in the Cariboo, he says, adding it may cause safety issues.
100 Mile & District Women’s Centre office co-ordinator Charlotte Stockford agrees the disappearance of public phones is a security concern for many people living in rural areas.
She notes it’s particularly true for those who are marginalized or live below the poverty line.
“In their world, it’s a luxury to have a cell phone,” Stockford says, so removing phone booths will leave many residents without a crucial link they currently rely on for any number of emergencies or important services.
“They can’t phone for help; they can’t phone for anything. We have people come into the women’s centre all the time to use the phone; that’s one of our services.”
Stockford adds some people think if a person lives in a rural area where it’s difficult to get into towns and there are no buses or even phone booths, then they must own a house, a cell phone and a reliable car.
“That’s not true. One of the things that abusive men will do is move a woman out from a populated area out into a more rural area. That’s really, really common, because the more you can isolate, the more you can have control and power.”
If a threatened woman is running for safety in the middle of the night and she knows there’s a phone booth, Stockford says it’s an avenue that should be preserved and not suddenly taken away.
The CRD’s resolution will now go to the floor at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities conference in September, and if passed there, will move forward to the provincial government for proposed legislation.