First Nations leaders cautiously optimistic about federal dollars for on-reserve policing
- EFN Staff | January 15, 2018
Policing on First Nations communities will be receiving $291.2 million, starting in 2018–2019 according a recent announcement made by the Federal Government. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale announced that Canada will be investing in funding over five years and ongoing, in addition to budget 2017’s commitment of $102 million to policing in Indigenous communities.
Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde said federal support for the First Nations Policing Program (FNPP) is necessary and critical to ensure safety and security for First Nations and First Nations police forces and police officers.
“Our primary concern is safety and security for First Nations, our families and First Nations police officers,” said National Chief Bellegarde in a media release. “[The recent] announcement will help ensure First Nations police officers and staff will have the tools necessary to do their jobs. These officers already put their lives on the line and should not have to face additional risks because they don’t have proper equipment. We want our police forces to be supported and funded at the same levels as other police forces in Canada and deemed an essential service. I lift up Minister [Ralph] Goodale for taking a significant step in the right direction.”
The FNPP has been an urgent priority for First Nations, with many agreements set to expire at the end of March. The funding over five years ensures these programs can continue. At a meeting on November 20, 2017 under the AFN-Canada Memorandum of Understanding on Joint Priorities, which commits federal cabinet ministers and First Nation representatives to meet three times a year, First Nations leaders cited the FNPP as an urgent priority. Participants spoke strongly about the need to support the programs and recognize them as an essential service.
AFN BC Regional Chief Terry Teegee, who holds the Justice Portfolio for the AFN, said the upcoming funding is an important recognition of the role First Nations police forces play in our communities.
“First Nations police forces must be fully supported and expanded; it is an essential service for all Canadians and First Nations peoples,” he said. “Improving security and policing in First Nations communities will benefit everyone. We welcome yesterday’s announcement and look forward to working together on the next steps.”
There are a number of AFN national resolutions calling for action to support First Nations police officers and police services. The Minister also committed to examining ways to improve the effectiveness of the FNPP.
The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) is also pleased with the recent announcement. The FSIN Justice Commission supports any investment that will enhance community safety; however, this will only affect the existing 32 Community Tripartite Agreements (CTA) which serves 48 of the 74 First Nation communities in Saskatchewan.
“From an operational policing perspective, any increase in dollars is a positive step in effort to address increasing rates of crime and violence on-reserve,” said Vice Chief Kimberly Jonathan in a FSIN media release. “From 2004 to 2013, the overall volume of crime in FNPP [First Nation Policing Program] communities declined as it did in the rest of Canada. However, the incidents of crime on-reserve still remained almost four times higher, and incidents of violent crime were about six times higher than the rest of Canada.”
Despite the announcement, the FSIN remains cautiously optimistic as the announcement supports existing CTA communities only. Vice Chief Jonathan added more works needs to be done and that it is time to create an Indigenous policing model that will provide core and enhanced policing services to Indigenous communities.
“Canada and the Province of Saskatchewan ought to engage First Nation communities to address the need to establish additional Self-Administered Policing Services within the province, as well as supporting those First Nation communities who have not entered into Community Tripartite Agreements,” she said.
The FSIN also looks forward to the contents of the renewed First Nation Policing Policy which has yet to be released publicly.