First Nations police association accuses Ottawa of failing to live up to funding commitment

The head of the First Nations Chiefs of Police Association says Ottawa’s failure to live up to its funding commitments is putting lives in danger.

“It’s the frustration not only of the police leadership but also the communities and our boards,” FNCPA President Jerel Swamp tells Nation to Nation. “It ultimately puts the safety of our citizens and our communities that we serve in jeopardy.”

Nine First Nation police forces in Ontario have launched a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal alleging chronic underfunding by the federal government is putting the safety of their communities at risk.

The FNCPA is also frustrated the Trudeau government has yet to pass legislation making First Nations policing an essential service.

“In 2017, we passed a motion asking and requiring Canada to make First Nations police services an essential service,” Swamp said.

“Prime Minister Trudeau had mandated Blair (Bill, former minister of public safety) in 2018 to make sure that First Nations police services are classified as essential services and pass legislation, and we’re three years later and it hasn’t come to fruition.”

In a separate interview, Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services CEO Justin Marchand says Ottawa needs to look to Indigenous service providers to develop a housing strategy rather than a government organization like the Canada Housing and Mortgage Corp.

“We know that when Indigenous people lead the development and administration of programs and services that affect their lives we have great success,” he tells Nation to Nation.

“And we know that what doesn’t work is when it’s government-led program development and delivery. We absolutely think it should not be CHMC leading this.”

The Trudeau government awarded CHMC $300 million in the 2022 budget to co-develop an urban, rural and northern Indigenous housing strategy with Indigenous partners.

In this year’s budget, the government pledged another $4 billion over seven years to the same strategy.

Critics say the amount doesn’t even come close to addressing the need.

Meanwhile, northern Manitoba NDP-MP Niki Ashton says chronic nursing shortages are putting First Nation communities in a constant state of crisis.

“We were able to find out some information from the federal government that indicated that over the last couple of months in Manitoba and Ontario…there was not one day that went by where nursing stations were properly staffed,” Ashton told Nation to Nation. “That’s just not acceptable.

“The federal government has a responsibility. Lives are on the line. We need to make sure that nursing stations have the staff; that nurses are there in the ways that communities need them.”

In response to a written question from the NDP, Indigenous Services Canada said nursing stations have been operating under capacity in First Nations communities in recent months due to staffing shortages of about 33 per cent.

ISC also said roughly 35 per cent of these positions are being filled by private contract nurses.

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