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Public safety minister proposes temporary funding for 3 First Nations police services operating on ‘fumes’

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Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino has proposed temporary funding for three indigenous police services that receive money under a special program administered by Ottawa, after their funding was cut off more than two months ago due to deadlock on the Negotiations for a new agreement.

Mendicino told reporters in Ottawa on Monday that he was “not satisfied with the state of the negotiations” between the police services and the government.

“I believe that, in fact, several of your concerns have merit, which is why I have now engaged directly with the community and directed my department to find solutions quickly so that we can resolve any current issues regarding the flow. of money to the community.

The First Nations and Inuit Policing Program administers funds for police services in 425 First Nations and Inuit communities across Canada.

The three Ontario police services at the center of the negotiations with Ottawa are:

  • Treaty Three Police Service.
  • UCCM Anishnaabe Police Service.
  • Anishinabek Police Service.

Mendicino said that although it is not the convention for ministers to be directly involved in the negotiations, he has asked that those police services receive the funds they need during the next 90 days.

“First things first: let’s get the funds back into the community as quickly as possible,” he said.

“Then we will bring the parties back to the negotiating table in good faith so that we can take the next steps toward reconciliation.”

Treaty Service Three Police Chief Kai Liu, at a news conference on Parliament Hill on Monday, joined other First Nations police chiefs in urging Ottawa to restore funding for First Nations police . (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

However, the lawyer for the three police forces said that Mendicino’s promise does not change anything.

Julian Falconer said the minister has not outlined what they must do to be eligible for those funds, and they will continue to resist signing up to any discriminatory policies.

Falconer said he plans to proceed with filing an injunction in Federal Court for emergency operational funding on behalf of the Ontario Indian Chiefs of Police on Wednesday.

Funding cut off on March 31

Treaty Three Police Service, which serves 23 First Nations communities in northwestern Ontario, has been working on a line of credit since June 5.

“We’ve been operating, essentially, on what I would call the fumes left over from the previous funding,” Treaty Three Police Service chief Kai Liu told CBC News.

On March 31, the Ottawa Inuit and First Nations Policing Program cut funding for the Treaty Three service, the UCCM Anishnaabe Police Service (on Manitoulin Island) and the Anishinabek Police Service (covering a large swath of northeastern Ontario).

Together, they represent 45 First Nations communities and around 30,000 people across Northern Ontario.

The three police forces reached an impasse with the funding body because it “operates in the most extraordinarily racist way,” according to Falconer.

A close up of a blue police badge that reads Treaty Police Three.
Treaty Three Police Service, which serves 23 First Nations communities in northwestern Ontario, has been operating on a line of credit since June 5. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

In 2019-2020, the program provided more than $150 million to support 1,350 police officers across Canada. In 2021-2022, it received $540.3 million in funding over five years. The federal government covers 52 percent of the budget and the provinces and territories cover the other 48 percent.

When it came time for the three northern Ontario police services to renegotiate their agreements with the government, they were unable to agree on certain terms that they say restrict their ability to serve their communities.

While increased funding has been offered, Liu said the terms and conditions prevent services from owning their property and, more importantly, operating special police units, such as a canine unit, major crime unit and a domestic assault unit.

“These terms and conditions have already been found discriminatory by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal as a result of a First Nations complaint that originated in Quebec,” Liu said.

Lack of resources

At a news conference in Ottawa on Monday, UCCM Anishnaabe Police Chief James Killeen said drug problems in his area are “astronomical” and his officers do not have the resources available to address them.

“We have forensic reports that show our overdose deaths are higher than the average for our country,” he said.

Killeen said it would be unheard of for non-indigenous police services to not get resources for special units and lose their funding if they come to an impasse with the agency providing the funding.

“When the contract for a municipal police service runs out, the police chief meets with the mayor and council,” Killeen said.

“And if they don’t agree on a budget, they keep working on it. At no time does a mayor and council say to that police service, ‘We’re going to cut funding unless you sign on the dotted line.'”

Ontario’s Indigenous Police Chiefs have filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission regarding the terms and conditions of the First Nations and Inuit Policing Program.

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