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First Nations police program ‘not working’: auditor general

Friday May 16, 2014
Photo courtesy of NAN
NAN Deputy Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler (centre), the police chiefs of Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service and Anishinabek Police Service and other supporters held a press conference the day after the auditor general released his report, which criticized the federal government in how it funds and approaches policing agreements with First Nations.

First Nations police services supported by the federal government under the First Nations Policing Program suffer from poor allocation of funds, shabby police facilities, and a lack of transparency from the feds, according to the Auditor General of Canada.

In his report released on May 6, Auditor General Michael Ferguson also said Public Safety Canada, the federal department that administers the program, does not obtain any “meaningful” input from First Nations when negotiating agreements.

In all, Ferguson reported that the program is “not working as intended” and that in Ontario, it “does not ensure that policing services on First Nations reserves meet the standards that apply to policing services elsewhere in the province.”

The report is not news to Nishnawbe Aski Nation, which has continually advocated for increased funding and for the feds to legislate Nishawbe Aski Police Service (NAPS) like any other provincial or federal police service.

Currently, NAPS – which serves 35 First Nations communities in northern Ontario – is not a mandated police service, but is funded as a program through agreements with the federal and provincial government that can be cancelled at any time.

Now, NAN said, the federal government will not renew an agreement unless the First Nations police service absolves the feds of any legal responsibility if the service fails to meet up to standards.

“With police services on the brink of not being able to meet payroll, the Government of Canada has pedalled bogus agreements to get First Nations to agree that the federal government are no longer responsible for Aboriginal policing,” said Deputy Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler. “The federal government has used underhanded tactics and bad faith negotiations and has deliberately promoted long-term agreement templates to First Nation police services across the country that will perpetuate the very problems highlighted by the Auditor General.”

In researching for his report, Ferguson examined two police agreements in Ontario and visited 15 remote First Nations.

The report highlighted the poor conditions of the police detachment in Eabametoong First Nation, which he described as being “deficient” and noted that detachments in other communities are decrepit and mouldy.

(Note: Last month, the province and federal government announced the funding of a new detachment for Eabametoong).

The police residence in Kashechewan was also described as “needing improvements.”

In funding First Nations police services, Ferguson noted Public Safety Canada is inconsistent in how it reviews or approves applicants and lacks transparency in how it selects which agreements to approve.

And when negotiating such agreements, Ferguson and his team found “found no documented evidence of the nature and extent of input by First Nations. We also found that 30 agreement holders had less than one month’s notice to complete negotiations of agreements that would have otherwise expired on 31 March 2013.”

The report also concluded that First Nation police services lack the protection of a legislative framework like other police services.

“The federal minister simply refuses to meet, and his closed-door policy is insulting and disrespectful of First Nations,” said Doug Chevrier, chairperson of the Police Governing Authority for the Anishinabek Police Service. “Had the Government of Ontario not stepped in to support us our service would not have been able to continue operating during this negotiation process, leaving our officers abandoned and the lives of our community members in jeopardy.”

In a statement released on May 6, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said his department is addressing the report’s findings and recommendations.

“The First Nations Policing Program (FNPP) has had a tangible impact on the safety and security of First Nation and Inuit communities,” Blaney added. “In March 2013, the federal government committed $612.4 million in funding over five years to renew agreements under the FNPP. Public Safety Canada continues to work with partners to finalize multi-year agreements to support dedicated, responsive, and professional policing services in First Nation and Inuit communities through this stable, long-term funding.”

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