The federal government is following up on its promise to bolster the First Nations Policing Program.
On Jan. 10 from Winnipeg, Minister for Public Safety Ralph Goodale announced an additional $291.2 million in funds to improve community policing served under the First Nations Policing Program.
According to representatives from the Ministry for Public Safety, the funding is to be used for new hires, improved salaries, additional or renewed training to improve officer safety and new equipment. The funds are not for expansion of the First Nations Policing Program.
“The First Nations Policing program is a crucial service that protects the safety of Indigenous Peoples through culturally relevant policing,” Goodale said in a press release.
Goodale lauded the funding announcement as the biggest financial investment for policing in Indigenous and Inuit communities in 27 years. The funding also includes a 2.75 per cent escalator to address inflation, a first for the Government of Canada according to Goodale’s release.
The federal investment of $291.2 million begins in the 2018-2019 fiscal year and brings the government’s total five-year investment into the First Nations Policing Program to a total of $813.7 million dollars.
In 2016, representatives from Public Safety Canada engaged in consultation with various groups including Indigenous communities which laid the framework for the bolstered funding.
The First Nations Policing Program is funded in part by the federal and provincial or territorial governments. The release issued by Public Safety Canada stated provincial governments would be asked to increase their funding to maintain their 48 percent share of the program.
The First Nations Policing Program applied to over 450 First Nation and Inuit communities across Canada – roughly 430,000 people.
In June of 2017, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Assembly of First Nations and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau regarding shared priorities. Indigenous policing was highlighted as the number one shared priority between both the government of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations.
FSIN cautiously optimistic about renewed agreement
On Jan 11, one day after Goodale’s announcement, the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) Justice committee applauded and supported the announcement but some questions remain.
The announcement on Jan 10 only supports existing agreements in 48 of 74 Indigenous communities in Saskatchewan according to the FSIN.
“More work needs to be done,” Vice Chief Kimberly Jonathan said. “It is time to create an Indigenous policing model that will provide both core and enhanced policing services to our communities.”
Jonathan said both the federal and the provincial government should engage Indigenous communities to address the need for establishing self-administered policing services within Saskatchewan.
The FSIN has yet to see the contents of the renewed First Nations Policing Program. Jonathan said an obvious challenge exists around the implementation of such a strategy due to this lack of knowledge.
Jonathan said the need was there for bolstered funding; she cited a report released by Public Safety Canada in March of 2016 as evidence.
“The overall volume of crime in First Nations Policing Program communities declined as it did in the rest of Canada,” Jonathan said. “However, the incidents of crime on-reserve still remained almost four times higher, and incidents of violent crime were about six times higher in the rest of Canada.”
On Twitter: @BryanEneas
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