NAN rejects police funding agreement
Nishnawbe Aski Nation is no longer willing to accept the status-quo funding model for Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service as it puts community members in “grave danger.”
“The years of chronic underfunding of our policing service has put our communities in grave jeopardy and is worsened by the failure to legislate a regulatory framework for Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service (NAPS),” said Deputy Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler, who holds the policing portfolio for NAN.
Responding to the federal government’s Mar. 4 announcement of a five-year funding extension for First Nations and Inuit police forces, Fiddler said NAN cannot continue to operate NAPS under the terms of the agreement.
“NAN can no longer operate policing under the current terms and we are not willing to extend those terms which are set to expire on March 31, as it falls short of the necessary safety services required in NAN First Nations,” Fiddler said.
Fiddler said the five-year funding extension, announced by Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, is building on failure.
“There were no details given on the announcement, there was no indication of any increase (in funding), there was no indication that the Police Officer Recruitment Fund would be renewed,” Fiddler said on March 5. “We see it as a status quo, an extension of the failed model that has been in place for NAPS since 1994.”
Fiddler reiterated his previous call to legislate NAPS, in a manner similar to the legislation governing federal, provincial and municipal police services.
“What is needed for Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service to effectively police our communities and to ensure public security for our communities and our officers is a regulatory framework,” Fiddler said. “(NAPS) needs to operate under the Police Services Act, like any other police. That would mandate it to meet certain standards and that Ontario and Canada would be obligated to fund Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service to meet those standards. Right now we’re not there.”
Fiddler said the chiefs and communities have made it “very clear” that the current framework NAPS is operating under is unacceptable.
“It’s putting lives in jeopardy and we cannot ensure public safety for our communities and our officers,” Fiddler said. “It’s been made very clear by the tragic incidents in the past, like the two young men who died in the fire in Kashechewan in 2006 and the recent incident (when a woman died while in police custody in a police vehicle) in Kasabonika on Feb. 1.”
Fiddler wrote to Toews on March 5 to explain that a simple extension of the status-quo, as it relates to First Nations policing, is unacceptable and will not be endorsed by NAN as a signatory to the tripartite agreement.
“NAN communities continue to be put at risk when it comes to safety which is blatantly apparent in the appalling conditions that exist including outdated radio systems, severe staffing shortages and many NAPS detachments which do not meet the National Building Code,” Fiddler said. “The prospect of extending the status-quo is not an option for NAPS.”
NAN had previously issued a Public Safety Notice on Feb. 19 to the Chief Coroner for Ontario and several federal government ministers, including Toews, declaring that the lives of those policed by NAPS are in “grave danger” and stressing the need for a regulatory framework for NAPS.
Toews said the federal government is committed to keeping “our streets and communities safe” in his announcement.
“Today’s announcement provides stable multi-year funding for policing services in First Nation and Inuit communities,” Toews said. “Our government will continue to support First Nation and Inuit policing.”
Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service Acting Chief of Police Bob Herman has also recently called for a regulatory framework and an increase in funding for the force, noting that NAPS has not had a significant increase in funding since 2009.
“Other police services are properly funded and each year can actually get their funding increased to meet their needs,” Herman said.
National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo welcomed the announcement by Toews.
“An immediate renewal of funding and then a commitment to working towards long term sustainability is very important,” Atleo said. “Now we must turn our attention to all jurisdictions working together to strengthen and secure First Nations policing through partnership and innovation. It is essential that we promote and deliver on safety and security for all of our communities.”
The First Nations Policing Program supports professional, dedicated and culturally-responsive policing services to First Nation and Inuit communities. The program provided funding to 163 policing agreements in 2012-13.
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