After years of demands, this Quebec First Nation will finally get its own police force
The Long Point First Nation has long decried slow response times in the community
After more than 15 years of demands and negotiations with Quebec's government, an Anishinabeg First Nation in the province is finally getting its own police force.
The Long Point First Nation, whose 800 members mostly live in Winneway, Que., — which is about two hours away from Val-d'Or — came to an agreement with the province on Tuesday.
The new force will be made up of Indigenous patrol officers from the Kebaowek and Temiskaming First Nations. Officers from the provincial police force, the Sûreté du Québec (SQ), will remain on the territory, but only for the first eight months.
The new agreement will fill a policing gap that has existed for too long in Winneway, said Steeve Mathias, the chief of the Long Point First Nation.
"The service [we were getting from the SQ] was no longer acceptable," he said. "It could take more than two hours for the police to arrive on the scene of an incident. The paramedics were always the first responders."
The Indigenous affairs minister, Ian Lafrenière, said the new agreement won't have a negative impact on citizens, saying it will lead to better services for the community.
"When a citizen of Winneway calls the police, the service will be there," he said.
A 2-step project
Lafrenière said the government was working with the community to figure out the exact territory to be served by the new force.
The new unit is the first step in a two-phase project, which aims to create a new regional Indigenous police force to replace the SQ in communities like Winneway.
"Not everything is settled yet," said Mathias. "But fortunately, there's a pilot project on the table."
Lafrenière explained that a regional police force would be able to work in several communities, taking pressure off existing police forces. A larger force would also offer better career advancement possibilities for the new officers.
The Long Point First Nation has set a deadline of March 31, 2023, to come to an agreement with the Quebec government for this proposal.
Mathias said a lot of work still needs to be done on the file, including hammering out the exact structure of the service.