Manitoba First Nations angry about RCMP contract

First Nations groups in Manitoba are going to court over the issue of who provides policing in their communities.

Judicial review sought about why chiefs weren't consulted in negotiations

Manitoba First Nations are filing for a judicial review of the new RCMP contract for the province. They say they were not consulted. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

First Nations groups in Manitoba are going to court over the issue of who provides policing in their communities.

They say they were not consulted during negotiations over an RCMP contract on reserves.

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC), the St. Theresa Point First Nation and the Pine Creek First Nation have filed an application for judicial review in the Federal Court of Canada and the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench.

They say the federal and provincial governments did not consult with them when a new contract was signed with the RCMP to provide policing services, including on First Nations traditional territories.

"The purpose for filing this application for judicial review is that it seeks to restrain the attorney general of Canada and the attorney general of Manitoba from implementing the Manitoba Provincial Police Services Agreement (PPSA) as it relates to the Manitoba First Nations’ reserves and traditional territories, and respective members," said AMC Grand Chief Derek Nepinak.

The AMC was recently informed that the PPSA was signed by the federal and provincial governments as the former contract expired on March 31, Nepinak said.

Unilateral negotiations or a decision to sign a PPSA without proper consultation is unacceptable" he said.

"We need to carve out a space for our participation in any agreements that impact service to our First Nation communities as this has been expressed by our grassroots people."

Quality of service questioned

"Over the years, numerous issues have been raised concerning the ability of RCMP to adequately and appropriately provide peacekeeping services to First Nations on reserve," said Chief Charlie Bouchie of the Pine Creek First Nation.

"The relationship between police services and First Nations was central to the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry. Since then, there have been a number of Manitoba inquests involving RCMP on reserve."

Manitoba First Nations have identified various challenges with RCMP services provided under the existing PPSA, including language barriers, cultural misunderstandings and a gap in quality of response times, said Nepinak.

In September 2011, David Harper, grand chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO), an organization representing most First Nations in the province's north, said native communities should be patrolled by their own people.

Many remote reserves don't have RCMP detachments and the nearest detachment is hours away, he said at the time, also noting there is one officer for every 2,000 or 3,000 people and that "is not acceptable."

As well, Mounties aren't able to enforce band bylaws such as those that prevent people from bringing alcohol into a dry reserve, he pointed out.