By: Bryan Eneas
A strained relationship between northern communities and the national police force is opening discussions between tribal councils about introducing their own law enforcement.
The Prince Albert Grand Council (PAGC) the Meadow Lake Tribal Council and the Saskatoon Tribal Council represent a majority of the Indigenous communities in northern Saskatchewan.
According to PAGC Vice Chief Joseph Tsannie, leaders from all parties have sat down to discuss creating a northern tribal police force in the province.
“We as leaders… in our northern communities, we have solutions as to how we can work with the RCMP to build healthy communities,” Tsannie said. “It seems like every time we come up with solutions or ideas, it seems like there’s legislation, new legislation [needed]… it seems like the justice system is kind of working against our people.”
Tsannie said Elders, PAGC Senators and communities are asking the tribal council to become involved in the law enforcement field in order to create and provide a safe environment for youth. He said so far, all parties involved in the discussions have expressed interest in finding out what tribal policing would look like for the North.
He suggested creating an intertribal police force could encourage Indigenous youth to participate in law enforcement careers.
“It only makes sense to create those opportunities for our young people to… become RCMP and to work in our communities,” Tsannie said. “Not to disrespect the RCMP, they have done a lot of good work, but our communities are evolving and we need to start occupying those fields.”
Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations third vice chief David Pratt suggested looking South to build a foundation for northern tribal policing.
“File Hills Qu’appelle [Tribal Council] has a police force down there, it’s possible we could look at using that model as a template for policing here in the North,” Pratt said.
The federal government previously announced additional $291.2 million in funding for new hires, improved salaries, additional or renewed training and new equipment for communities being served by the First Nations Policing Program. Officials from the office of the Ministry of Public Safety said the additional funding would not be directed toward the creation of new policing programs.
The funding announcement, which was made on Jan. 10, only supports existing agreements in 48 of 74 Indigenous communities represented by the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations.