Northern Ontario man 'terrified' during 8-hour wait for police

A man from Aroland First Nation says he became a prisoner in his own home this week after police failed to respond to his calls for help.

Lack of 24-hour policing frustrates Aroland First Nation man

Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service doesn't receive enough funding to provide 24-hour coverage for the First Nations it serves. (Yvon Theriault/Radio-Canada)

A man from Aroland First Nation says he became a prisoner in his own home this week after police failed to respond to his calls for help in the First Nation about 360 km northeast of Thunder Bay.

Aroland First Nation resident Mark Bell says the 8 hours he waited for police to respond to his call for help is unacceptable.

Mark Bell said a Canada Day party continued into July 2 at the house next door to his and the partygoers had turned sour by morning.

They shouted at Bell's wife when she took the couples' dogs out, and then started tearing down the fence between the properties, Bell said.

The couple retreated inside, and Bell said he was on the phone to police when one of the people broke down his door.

"It was just terrifying to have my wife crying behind me, my dogs all freaking out," Bell said.

'Living in fear'

Bell managed to get the intruder out, but then he spent hours barricaded inside with his wife, trying to stay safe, waiting for police to arrive.

He said he called the Provincial Communications Centre and was told an OPP officer was on the way from Geraldton. But an hour later, when he called back, Bell said he was told that it was up to the Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service to respond.

NAPS is responsible for policing Aroland, but it's not funded to provide 24-hour service, and no officer was available in the community to take Bell's call.

"I shouldn't have to be a prisoner in my home," Bell said. "It shocked us that they [police] wouldn't come. Something needs to be done here.

"We cannot have law abiding citizens living in fear."

Two people arrested

Eventually a NAPS officer was sent from Constance Lake First Nation, about a three-hour drive from Aroland. He arrived at 5:30 p.m., more than eight hours after Bell's first call. Two people were arrested in connection with the incident.

Bell said the slow police response would not be acceptable anywhere else in Canada, and it makes him consider leaving Aroland where he has a job as the community's economic development officer, and his wife works as a teacher.

"It's hard, do I really want to leave here because of a few bad apples?" he said.  "Sometimes that's the way I think about it, but when there's no service, you know it's hard to stay."

 The OPP told CBC News that it's up to NAPS to speak about the protocol it has for responding to calls in Aroland First Nation.

No one from NAPS was available to comment on this story.