Eabametoong orders NAPS to leave community
Although Nishnawbe Aski Police Services has been ordered to leave Eabametoong by a band council resolution, NAPS officers are still providing services along with Ontario Provincial Police officers.
“Chief and council have issued a band council resolution for NAPS to leave as soon as other policing alternatives can be found,” said NAPS Chief of Police Claude Chum. “Basically, their BCR states very simple: NAPS will not expire until an alternative policing service can be put in place. And obviously, that is the OPP.”
Chum said NAPS has been discussing the situation with the OPP since the Aug. 29 BCR was received.
“(The OPP) have agreed to assist by providing additional officers in the community to help our officers to address any policing concerns that they may have right now,” Chum said. “So right now we have OPP working with NAPS officers in Fort Hope.”
OPP Sgt. Shelley Garr said the OPP are currently assisting NAPS with their manpower shortage in Eabametoong.
“The OPP is currently assisting NAPS members with frontline policing in that community,” Garr said.
Chum is looking forward to discussing the issue with Nishnawbe Aski Nation, Eabametoong and the OPP in the near future.
“We are going to be having meetings with various stakeholders over the next couple of weeks — OPP, NAN executive, hopefully the leadership of Fort Hope — and sit down and try to hammer out the issues and see what solution we can find.”
Chum said NAPS would prefer to continue providing services in Eabametoong, but would respect the community’s leadership if the OPP agrees to provide services.
NAPS usually has five officers in Eabametoong, but has been down to three officers over the past month with one vacancy and one person off due to illness.
“The OPP are only sending two officers at a time, from what I understand,” Chum said. “And then we’ll have two officers there at a time, so the way the schedule is going now, there’s four officers there all the time in the community, which is pretty good.”
Chum said the chief and council indicated the BCR was related to a specific incident involving the police a week earlier but that incident wasn’t the only issue. They were also concerned about ongoing issues over past years, such as visibility, no officers in the community, shortage of resources, shortage of infrastructure and closure of the detachment due to a diesel spill.
“They were just fed up, frustrated I guess, with the level of service they were getting and they just want more,” Chum said. “They just want basically the same kind of service that any other citizen in the province of Ontario gets. And we just can’t do that for the north with our funding, the way it is set up.”
Chum said NAPS receives funding for 132 officers in 35 First Nations from Canada and Ontario.
“Out of those 35 First Nations, we have about six or seven communities that are just two and three-man detachments,” Chum said. “In some cases they have just one person.”
Chum said NAPS currently is down 26 officers, due to vacancies and leave.
“Right now we have four or five communities that have no officers in the community for four or five days at a time,” Chum said. “These communities are only allotted one or two constables and with that, it is hard to have a visibility in the community.”
Chum said the officers usually go in for eight days and are off for six days.
“We try to plug in as best as we can by using other officers,” Chum said. “It just doesn’t work because we just don’t have the manpower right now with 26 bodies gone. We just can’t plug in all the holes flying people around to plug them in. It just doesn’t work.”
Chum said NAPS needs at least 30-40 additional officers to provide a basic police service to the communities, noting that funding has been capped for the past three years.
“Our present policing agreement expired March 31 of this year,” Chum said. “And we just got an automatic extension. We don’t know what the funding is going to be like for the next year or the next two years.”
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