Thunder Bay

Chiefs want First Nations policing declared an essential service

The association representing the chiefs of Canada's Indigenous police forces is calling on the federal and provincial governments to make First Nations policing an essential service.

Funding currently unreliable, says president of First Nations Chiefs of Police Association

The First Nations Chiefs of Police Association is calling on the federal and provincial governments to make First Nations policing an essential service. (Troy Fleece/Canadian Press)

The association representing the chiefs of Canada's Indigenous police forces is calling on the federal and provincial governments to make First Nations policing an essential service.

The First Nations Chiefs of Police Association passed a resolution at its annual general meeting last week expressing concern with the current status of First Nations policing, asking the government to make the service an essential one that would include "predictable, sustained" funding that meets the needs of each individual First Nations police department.

'Right now, we're a program'

"We need to be here, there's a need for First Nations policing, and we want to ensure that we can get the funding that's appropriate," said Dwayne Zacharie, association president. "Right now, we're a program. Year-to-year, or from agreement-to-agreement, it feels like the government can say 'well, you know, thanks for coming out, but maybe we don't need you, or maybe we don't need you at the level that we've been funding for the last few years.'"

In fact, Zacharie said, First Nations policing funding levels haven't changed since 2006. Complicating things further is the fact that there's no standard formula outlining how to provide funding to the country's First Nations police forces.

The result is a strain on First Nations police services. For exmaple, equipment is often outdated or not available — some departments, Zacharie said, have to borrow things like breathalyzer machines from other services, or have to transport suspected impaired drivers long distances for testing, because the proper equipment isn't available.

Regular, predictable funding sought

"If we want to grow and expand, it makes it very difficult," he said. "It makes it harder for us to keep people and to retain people if we're not able to pay salaries that are appropriate for someone doing this type of work."

As an essential service, Zacharie said, First Nations police departments would receive regular, predictable funding.

"We'd be able to say this is the amount of funding we get year-to-year, and we could forecast," he said. "Out strategic plans would be more about how we wanted to grow and expand and get better, provide better services, more services to our community."

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