Three Indigenous police forces serving 45 First Nations in northern Ontario say they are at risk of closing due to a lack of funding.
The Treaty Three Police, UCCM Anishnaabe Police and Anishnabek Police have not received funding from the federal government since March 31, as negotiations with Ottawa are deadlocked.
“They (the police departments) have run out of money to pay the workers or cover the workers,” said Reg Niganobe, head of the Anishinabek Nation Grand Council.
“So that will lead to no more police force within the First Nations.”
Collectively, the three police forces serve about 30,000 people in northern Ontario.
The Anishinabek Nation Chiefs-in-Assembly declared a state of emergency on June 7 in response to the lack of funding.
“It’s both sad and disheartening,” Niganobe said.
“They’ve never been adequately funded. It’s always been year-to-year negotiations or renegotiations every few years, just to get the adequate service needed and the adequate funding needed.”
Now Ontario’s Indigenous Police Chiefs are seeking an order for the three police departments to get emergency funding so they can continue to pay their officers.
They also filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission over a funding formula that attorney Julian Falconer, who represents Ontario’s indigenous police chiefs, has called “discriminatory and unfair.”
I mean, it’s absolutely bizarre, draconian and racist.— Julian Falconer, Counsel, Indigenous Chiefs of Police of Ontario
Falconer said Indigenous police forces do not receive funding for special units, such as major crime units and home assault units.
They are also not allowed to incur expenses in the form of loans to finance their own infrastructure and are not allowed to spend their money on legal representation to interpret the financing agreements.
The First Nations and Inuit Policing Program normally covers the operating costs of the three police forces. The federal government administers the program and works with the provinces to fund it.
Falconer said a federal court decision in January 2022, along with decisions from the Quebec Court of Appeal, recognized that the funding model for Indigenous police forces in Canada “operates in an arbitrary and discriminatory manner”.
“I mean it’s absolutely bizarre, draconian and racist, and Canada has no explanation for this other than that’s the rules,” he said.
If the three police departments don’t get emergency funding, Falconer says there won’t be any other options to fill the police gap they leave behind.
“It is impossible that there is an alternative police station available,” he said.
“The communities do not accept the legitimacy of the OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) entering their communities uninvited.”
Breaking: has reached out to Public Safety Canada for comment, but had not received a response at time of publication.