First Nations police service may have to shut down
Nishnawbe Aski Police Service not getting enough funding to be effective, NAN official says
The Nishnawbe Aski Nation is warning that Canada's largest First Nations police service may have to shut down.
NAN says there's not enough funding to keep the Nishnawbe Aski Police operating safely in northern Ontario.
"Because of the limited resource[s] that we have, we cannot guarantee public safety for our communities and even for our officers," said NAN Deputy Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler.
The Nishnawbe Aski Police Service — or NAPS — works in 35 communities and Fiddler said joint federal and provincial funding falls far short of what's needed to hire enough police officers.
"Communities rightly ... expect 24-7 police coverage, and right now we just can't meet those demands because of the limited boots we have on the ground," he said.
So at a meeting of First Nations chiefs next week, Fiddler said NAN will recommend terminating the police service's funding agreement with the government if the situation doesn't improve over the next year.
If that happened — and no other aborginal police service stepped in — the Ontario Provincial Police would take over.
A spokesperson with the OPP said it can’t "speculate what might happen in the future."
"We just ... want to be clear that the OPP fully supports First Nations policing," Sgt. Shelley Garr said.
Not just a government-funded program
Fiddler noted NAPS should be treated like any other police force — not just a government-funded program.
"The fact that it's still considered a program, as opposed to a regular police service, I think is a hindrance to us being able to access the resources that we need in order to fulfill the mandate of our police service," he said.
Fiddler added that First Nations value their police force and will be strongly advocating for more funding over the next year.
While he believes the provincial government is eager to work with them to address the issue, on the federal side, Fiddler said NAN requested a meeting with federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews a couple of weeks ago but has yet to hear back from his office.
Toews' office said a meeting already took place with representatives of the Nishnawbe Aski Police Service back in February.
"Minister Toews met with leadership from NAPS on Feb. 26," the minister's director of communications, Julie Carmichael, said in an email to CBC News.
"Our government was pleased to announce stable, long-term funding for the [Canada-wide] First Nations Policing Program. Our government has increased resources for First Nations Policing by over 30 per cent. We were also pleased to note that NAPS has signed the renewed agreement. As policing is primarily a matter of provincial jurisdiction we look forward to working with Ontario and NAPS on a longer term agreement."