Federal police funding agreement avoids threatened loss of services

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In December, First Nations police leaders issued a dire warning: without renewed funding, on-reserve police services would be forced to closed down by April 1.

The First Nations Chiefs of Police Association claimed in a press release that Canada was “creating financial instability that once again is placing all First Nations police services at risk of closure and loss of personnel, while further jeopardizing the safety and security of First Nations citizens.”

It appears their warnings worked. On January 10, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale announced a $291 million increase in funding and a change to funding agreements.

“The First Nations Policing Program is a critical service that protects the safety of Indigenous Peoples through culturally relevant policing,” Goodale said at the announcement.

“This new funding will be ongoing, so communities can count on it for the long term. It’s part of our commitment to work together with Indigenous Peoples to make real progress.”

Currently, First Nations communities have had to renegotiate their funding agreements every five years with the federal government. The new proposal would see funding commitments ongoing and automatically increased by 2.75% every year to match inflation.

The increased funding will support priorities such as officer safety, police equipment, salaries, and hiring up to 110 additional officers.

This announcement covers 185 agreements, representing nearly 1,300 officers in over 450 First Nations and Inuit communities with a combined population of over 400,000 people.

Administered by Public Safety Canada, the First Nations Policing Program was started in 1991. In Quebec, there are 21 First Nations police forces serving 29 communities. The rest are served by the Surêté du Québec.

Despite the announcement, Eeyou Eenou Police Force Interim Director Lyle Cox was cautious. He also noted that the funding might not be that significant when broken down.

“The way we see it, $291 million for five years, for how many police forces, if you do the math, I don’t know what that would be,” Cox said.

The Nation did the math. On average, each police force could expect an increase of almost $315,000 per year for this next five-year period.

Cox reiterated the importance of continued funding to First Nations police services. He noted that the Eeyou Eenou Police Force is still negotiating a new agreement.

“Policing isn’t something you can buy out of the box. You have to know the culture and the background of community members,” he said.

The Eeyou Eenou Police Force began operations in 2011, serving the nine Cree communities and areas of extended jurisdiction.

At the December press conference, Listiguj Councillor Lloyd Alcon said the job that First Nations police do is often more difficult and more intimate than other police, but First Nations police are not taken seriously by other police forces, and don’t receive adequate funding.

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