A delegation of First Nations Chiefs and First Nations Police Chiefs of Quebec traveled to Parliament last Thursday to express outrage over Public Safety Canada’s announcement that funding for the First Nations Policing Program (FNPP) will be reduced by 19 per cent for the upcoming year.
Members of the delegation also challenged what they view as the federal government’s complete double standard: investing heavily in public safety services across Canada, while cutting funding for First Nations’ services.
“The pillars of their political platform – ‘you do the crime you do the time.’ These cuts are totally disrespectful and insulting in terms of policing service for First Nations communities. They are a total contradiction to the direction taken in terms of the rest of the country,” said Lloyd Phillips, chief of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake and spokesperson for the Assembly of the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador (AFNQL) Public Security Portfolio.
Funding for First Nations police services is established through tripartite agreements between the federal and provincial governments and First Nations. For the past two years the federal government has delayed the negotiation of a new tripartite agreement in anticipation of a comprehensive review of First Nations policing in Canada. In its place, the federal government has temporarily implemented successive one year funding agreements.
According to Phillips, First Nations police services are already extremely underfunded, especially in Quebec, which receives “the bare-bone minimum of funding required.”
“A 19 per cent decrease equates to about $2.8 million, and greatly jeopardizes the ability for people to do their job. Especially for smaller forces it means the possibility of laying off people. In terms of larger forces [it] jeopardizes the ability to carry out large scale investigations,” he said.
At a press conference on Parliament Hill, Shawn Atleo, chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), spoke of the need to create a more secure funding system.
“Currently, with the end of each fiscal year comes a threat to whether or not a community will be able to maintain its police services. Clearly we need to look at a different approach that would provide stable, multi-year agreements with a proper funding base to avoid jeopardizing the safety and security of First Nation communities,” he said.
At the press conference Steve Launière, the president of the Association of the First Nations Chiefs of Police of Quebec, added, “If this decision materializes within the scope of the next budget, there will be serious repercussions. This decision will jeopardize the policing services in the communities and, as a consequence, it will have an impact on criminality and social peace.”
While in Ottawa, the delegation, had hoped to obtain a meeting with Vic Toews, the Minister of Public Safety.
“Several requests were made by regional chiefs and the community, but unfortunately Minister Toews has been extremely elusive,” said Phillips.
In an email to The Daily, Toews’s office wrote: “Our Government continues to support the First Nations Policing Program, which has made a significant contribution to improving public safety in First Nation and Inuit communities for close to 20 years.”
However the office refused to go into detail about funding cuts, stating, “We cannot speculate [on] the outcome of budgetary decisions.”