اخبارالعرب 24-كندا:الثلاثاء 6 ديسمبر 2022 10:22 صباحاً An Ojibway First Nation in northern Ontario has filed a lawsuit against the federal government alleging that chronic inequitable funding of their policing services has created a public safety crisis in the community.
"It happens more often than not where our officers couldn't execute an arrest because they had no back-up in the community. In fact, there are times when offenders were basically allowed to commit crimes and walk away," said Wilfred King, chief of Kiashke Zaaging Anishinaabek (KZA) (also known as Gull Bay First Nation) during a press conference Monday morning in Ottawa.
"It's a very dire situation," King added.
The statement of claim, filed Monday afternoon with the Federal Court, alleges, "First Nation policing services have been systematically and chronically underfunded, endangering First Nation [officer and community] safety."
The federal government has 30 days to file their defence with the Federal Court.
It's the latest move adding pressure on the federal government to ensure equitable funding and adequate policing services in Indigenous communities across the country, something the federal government says it is working toward.
Often no police protection in KZA
There are currently only two active police officers in Kiashke Zaaging, King said, which means there are often times when there is no police protection.
The officers often work alone, and sometimes have to request back-up support from Ontario Provincial Police detachments that don't always respond to those calls, he said.
"In a recent incident, we had a violent offender in the community and the police would not respond because they could not get the necessary backup," King said, adding he worries for their safety.
Chantelle Bryson, a lawyer representing the First Nation, added the officers are working without adequate resources, including no cell or satellite phone access, no police station or support staff, and receiving lower pay than other officers in Ontario.
"We have officers in KZA that don't have housing. We have one officer that was driving back and forth three hours each way from Thunder Bay, and another officer who sleeps on a friend's couch," said Bryson.
She said the federal government continues to invest its money elsewhere, instead of supporting the self-determination of First Nations and responding to recommendations set out by national inquiries, like the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls report published in 2019.
"KZA will not wait to become a lawless enclave," she said.
Momentum toward declaring First Nation policing 'essential service'
Unlike non-Indigenous communities across Canada where policing operates as an essential service, under the First Nations and Inuit Policing Program (FNIPP), funding agreements are negotiated between the communities, Public Safety Canada, and the province.
There are currently 35 First Nations police services and one Inuit police service across Canada, with most located in Ontario and Quebec.
Lennard Busch says the legal challenge launched by KZA speaks to the mounting frustration about how First Nations policing services are funded and administered. He's the executive director for the First Nation Chiefs of Police Association.
"We certainly have been for quite awhile now pushing to eliminate some of the disparity between self-administered First Nations police services and mainstream policing," he told CBC News.
Funding has been a key issue, causing conditions that put both the communities and the police officers at risk, Busch said, but there is momentum toward declaring the service essential and providing equitable funding.
In January 2022, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled the Canadian government was discriminating against the Pekuakamiulnuatsh First Nation, located 260 kilometres north of Quebec City, by chronically under-funding the Mashteuiatsh Police Service.
In the fall, Public Safety Canada released a report about the FNIPP detailing considerable problems highlighted during public consultations, and Minister Marco Mendicino has consistently reaffirmed his commitment to introducing new legislation this year.
The ministry did not respond to questions from CBC News about the legislation or about KZA's concerns by the deadline.
Busch says their organization, along with the Assembly of First Nations, have been supporting the consultations and the development of the legislation, and is cautiously optimistic about it.
"A lot of stuff we've heard before and then it just kind of died," Busch said.
"Hopefully this will change a lot of things in terms of how we resource First Nation police services, how we support them, how we fund them and how we regulate them."
But Wilfred King says he doesn't know what's in that long-promised legislation, and his First Nations police force needs sufficient resources and funding now.
"We cannot wait for that legislation," he said.
تم ادراج الخبر والعهده على المصدر، الرجاء الكتابة الينا لاي توضبح - برجاء اخبارنا بريديا عن خروقات لحقوق النشر للغير