Kimberley Molina, CBC News
January 13, 2018
Two Indigenous communities in the region say they welcome the injection of nearly $300 million by the federal government into First Nations and Inuit police forces over the next five years.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale made the $291-million funding announcement Wednesday, just months before the First Nations Policing Program (FNPP) was set to expire in March.
The money will flow into more than 450 communities starting in the next fiscal year and be used for officer salaries, hiring new officers and purchasing equipment, such as bullet-proof vests, breath tests and vehicles. Two of those communities include the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation located near Maniwaki, Que., and the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, southeast of Ottawa.
“We’re happy to see that [the minister] finally realized that this is important,” said Chief Jean Guy Whiteduck of Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, who said he had lobbied for First Nations policing to be recognized as an essential service in need of stable funding.
The force has been active since 1985 and currently has six full-time officers who come from the community. It recently hired two more officers on a temporary basis after the force was struggling to police the community around the clock. The chief has been concerned for the safety of officers who often have to attend a crime scene at night or patrol Highway 105, which runs through the community, on their own due to a shortage of police staff.
Whiteduck said it’s also important their officers’ salaries are equivalent to those of other officers across Quebec.
“They require the same training, the same background, the same education to do policing. So, at least, we’ll be able to meet those standards and hopefully retain our officers and ensure they’re well equipped,” he said.
Currently, the force’s budget is around $1 million a year, which he estimates is $300,000 to $500,000 short of what’s needed.
The federal government provides 52 per cent of the funding for First Nations police forces, with provinces and territories paying the rest.
While it’s not clear if the Quebec government will also increase its funding to match the federal government’s increase, Whiteduck isn’t worried.
“In the past, Quebec has not been a problem. Quebec has stepped up to the plate to pay their share,” he said.