(Ottawa, ON) – Today, Kiashke Zaaging Anishinaabek (Gull Bay First Nation) Chief Wilfred King has launched a legal action in Federal Court against Public Safety Canada and other federal departments in response to the inequitable funding of First Nations Police Services. King, along with Legal Counsel Chantelle Bryson (Potestio Law) announced the legal action during a media conference on Parliament Hill.
Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Regional Chief Quebec/Labrador Ghislain Picard is supportive of the legal challenge. “For too long, First Nations communities’ safety has been compromised due to a lack of funding for First Nations police services. The federal government’s take it or leave it approach to funding these police services have resulted in tragedy, as we have recently seen in James Smith Cree Nation. This legal challenge is necessary to address this longstanding issue.”
First Nations are over-represented in the justice system. Systemic racism, over-policing and police misconduct have long been studied and action is overdue. The AFN is working on developing and implementing a statutory framework recognizing First Nations Police Services as essential services with equitable funding and capacity supports.
First Nations must lead development and implementation of community safety and security action plans that support culturally appropriate models to policing are also a must.
Kiashke Zaaging Anishinaabek participates in the Public Safety Canada First Nation and Inuit Policing Facilities Program through funding agreements administered by the Ontario First Nation Policing Agreement between the province and the federal government. First Nations Police officers are paid far less than provincial and municipal counterparts, with fewer benefits and little to no raise opportunities, and pension.
At today’s press conference, Chief King stressed that the lack of sufficient funding through this program has jeopardized his community’s public safety. “Currently we have a compliment of three police officers, one that’s on extended sick leave. Therefore, we only have two officers on duty. There are times when we have no police services whatsoever.”
The current funding model leaves First Nations Police Services without basic equipment and operations needs, including police stations, satellite phones in areas without cell coverage, and support staff.
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino‘a has announced intentions to designate First Nations Police as an essential service, however, no funding details for this designation have been revealed.
The AFN is the national organization representing First Nations people in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates.
For more information please contact:
Assembly of First Nations