Properly fund Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service, MP tells feds
(NDP - Timmins-James Bay)
MP Charlie Angus (NDP – Timmins-James Bay) is calling on the provincial and federal governments to alleviate the chronic underfunding of Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service (NAPS), which serves 35 First Nations in northern Ontario.
In 2006, the underfunding of NAPS drew national headlines when Ricardo Wesley and James Goodwin of Kashechewan First Nation died in a makeshift cell when the local NAPS detachment office was consumed by fire.
An inquest into the deaths of Wesley and Goodwin confirmed what NAPS and First Nations leaders have claimed for years: that the First Nations police organization is severely underfunded, understaffed and lacking adequate facilities.
And after three years since a jury listed 86 recommendations, including the need for increased funding for NAPS, Angus said the governments continues to fail the NAPS front line officers.
In a letter to Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, Angus called on the federal government to work with the province to provide adequate funding support for NAPS.
“NAPs officers are working under conditions that can only be described as Third World,” Agnus wrote. “They are not given anywhere near the same support as municipal police or the OPP. This needs to change.”
About 134 NAPS officers serve the NAN territory, which is roughly two-thirds of the province. Angus is concerned that the lack of back up and proper resources is leading to increasing levels of burn-out and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among the force.
“We are seeing upwards of 20 percent of the officers being off at any time because of leave or stress,” he said. “This is the kind of levels you’d see in combat. We have officers going into violent situations without back up. They are lacking proper housing and many detachments are substandard.”
Last year, NAPS faced a $1 million budget deficit near the end of the 2010-2011 fiscal year, forcing NAPS to employ less than a full complement of officers and the layoff of some civillian staff. Officers were reassigned and forced to take on more duties while NAPS asked the Ontario Provincial Police to patrol the communities of Mishkeegogamang and Aroland.
A Tripartite Police Agreement between the Government of Canada, the Province of Ontario and Nishnawbe Aski Nation expired six months ago. Meanwhile NAPS faces the March 2013 loss of 11 officers whose contracts under the Police Officer Recruitment Fund are due to expire.
Angus said the parties must come together to address the funding disparity to ensure
“There is no reason for NAPs officers to be left without the resources they need,” he said.
“There is no reason why First Nation communities should have to accept undermanned and under-resourced police forces. Minister Toews needs to sit down with Nishnawbe Aski Nation and work out appropriate funding and support.”
During the inquest into the deaths of Ricardo Wesley and James Goodwin of Kashechewan First Nation, NAN provided a list of recommendations, which included:
NAN should be adequately funded by Canada and Ontario to be able to meaningfully and actively participate in consultations and negotiations about a regulatory/legislative framework for NAPS and the provision of police services to NAN First Nations.
NAN should conduct a research and policy review in order to provide its member First Nations that are policed by NAPS with options about how to best provide adequate and suitable housing for NAPS officers, and Ontario and Canada should provide funding in order for NAN to carry out this work.
FUNDING OF POLICE SERVICES
Canada should amend its First Nations Policing Policy to eliminate the prohibition on the provision of funding for major capital projects.
Canada should amend its First Nations Policing Policy to eliminate the stipulation that funding will only be provided on a cost-share 52%-48% basis, so that either party may fund policing in excess of that limit.
Ontario should amend its policy or policies relating to First Nations police services to allow Ontario to fund on-reserve buildings and capital projects.
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