Warning about Canada’s Indigenous Control Laws


Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said he hopes to introduce legislation declaring First Nations control of an essential service early in the new year, with one regional chief calling that time “tight”.

In a year-end interview with the Canadian Press, Mendicino said the future law is being developed with input from stakeholders and Indigenous communities, who he deems worthy. have “similar policing qualities” to non-Indigenous communities.

He describes the work as the next step in promoting reconciliation with indigenous peoples.

“We need to tie our work in a relationship based on trust, respect, and recognition of the inherent right of Indigenous Peoples to self-determination when it comes to public trust,” Mendicino said.

“It’s precisely those values ​​that are driving the work we’re doing on the ground.”

In September, Mendicino told reporters he would be “working around the clock” to get the law ready to be introduced this fall, but that didn’t happen.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to create legislation declaring First Nations control of an essential service by 2020.

However, Ghislain Picard, regional leader of the Council of First Nations representing Quebec and Labrador, said they have discussed the matter with the federal government since the early days of Trudeau’s first term. in 2015.

“The timelines have been pushed back and pushed back,” he said on Wednesday.

The hope now, he said, is for legislation to be presented in the spring of 2023, but “a lot of work has to happen between now and then.”

Picard says discussions about the form of legislation involve not only stakeholders such as AFN, a national advocacy organization for more than 600 First Nations communities, but also provinces, experts and police chief assassin.

“The timeline will be tight,” he said.

Gary Vidal, Conservative critic of Indigenous services, says his party will review the law when it is enacted.

“However, it has been delayed and it is not a good start if the government wants us to believe that is their priority,” he said in a statement.

Trudeau’s government has also faced pressure, including from Indigenous leaders, to reform the RCMP. The national force often serves as the primary service force for those living in the reserve because of the contractual control arrangements it has with all provinces except Quebec and Ontario, where there are their own provincial force.

Crimes like the frenzied stabbing at the James Smith Cree Nation in September, which left 11 dead and 18 others injured, amplified calls for reform.

Federal NDP Indigenous service critic Lori Idlout said the tragedy reinforced the urgent need for First Nations control.

MP Nunavut said in a statement: “The Liberal government continues to disappoint them by repeatedly delaying the introduction of legislation.

“Indigenous peoples have solutions; they just need a federal partner willing to provide long-term, adequate and equitable funding.”

Funding is actually seen as one of the major barriers. Since 1991, Ottawa has funded police services in First Nations and Inuit communities, but an internal review this year found the program was under-resourced and underfunded in translation agreements. service.

Picard said passing legislation declaring control of First Nations an essential service was the easy part.

“How do we fund it is the harder part,” he said. “This is really what is at stake here.”

Picard added that many factors will need to be taken into account, such as wages, benefits, training and infrastructure – not to mention how demand will vary depending on factors like remoteness. of the community.

“It’s complicated,” he said.

The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls also raised concerns around insufficient funding for the existing program, and its 2019 report includes a call for call to action to “significantly transform Indigenous policy”.

It said Indigenous police services must be funded at the same rate as non-Indigenous services and must undergo audits by civilian watchdogs.

According to Public Safety Canada, there are currently 35 First Nations police services in Canada, the majority of which operate in Ontario and Quebec.

The First Nations Association of Sheriffs said it had received dozens of calls from other communities wanting to follow the same route, which it said could be a complicated and lengthy process.

While the new legislation has not yet been introduced, Mendicino said his government has made progress in this regard by reaching an agreement with the government of Alberta and the province’s Siksika Nation to allow communities to transition away from reliance on RCMP and instead create -manage police services.

Mendicino pointed out that Ottawa has also signed an agreement with the government of Saskatchewan and the Prince Albert Grand Council, including the James Smith Cree Nation, to explore new ways to ensure public safety.

“That’s what moving forward with reconciliation,” he said. “There’s still a long way to go.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on December 21, 2022.

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