(The province of Quebec announced money to help the Algonquin community of Lac Simon improve its police force. Photo: Tom Fennario/APTN)
APTN National News
LAC SIMON, QUE — After three violent deaths involving police since February, the Algonquin First Nation of Lac Simon in Quebec will receive increased funding from the government of Quebec to improve its police force.
“Today we received the confirmation of three aspects [of help], in the realm of prevention for the youth in our community and we received the services of a consultant who will help our police corps,” said Vice Chief Pamela Papatie.
In a news press conference held Sunday in the community, Quebec Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux and Aboriginal Affairs Minister Geoffrey Kelley announced that Lac Simon will see the return of its own Aboriginal police force in June.
The police will have additional help from retired provincial police officer turned consultant Réjean Hardy.
The announcement follows the events of February, when Lac Simon police Officer Thierry LeRoux, 26, was shot and killed by community member Anthony Raymond Papatie.
Papatie, 22, took his own life after confessing to the shooting on facebook.
Then in April, Sandy Michel, 23, was shot and killed by local police after brandishing a knife.
Since then the Sûreté du Québec (SQ), the provinces police force, has been patrolling the community.
“We remain concerned about the situation in Lac Simon, I think it’s very important that the local police force, the Anishnabe police force, go back to work,” said Kelley.
Vice Chief Papatie said that despite the Michel shooting, the local police force is preferred to the SQ.
“They know the addresses, they know who to go see if someone needs someone to listen to them, or even a place to bring them if someone just needs a place to sleep.”
But the band council is on record stating that an additional $300,000 is needed to adequately police the community.
And they’re not the only ones that think the local police is underfunded.
“We were handed today a report that was given to the band by the CSST, the workman’s safety board, so we’re going to be looking at that to see if there are other measures that are necessary, but some of those adjustments can only be done working with the federal government because they’re part of the shared policing agreement that we have with this community,” said Kelley
The SQ’s union has also called for equipment such as tasers to decrease the likelihood of shooting death.
“We have some pilot projects going on and we will learn from those pilot projects and we will see how we can incorporate these new technologies in the particular context of First Nation communities,” said Coiteux.
Other measures announced today include $625,000 over five years for a program aimed at youth crime prevention, and $30,000 to improving security at the elementary school through the installation of cameras and a better access control system.
Over crowded housing, substance abuse, and poverty are listed by residents as issues that plague the First Nation of around 1800, which sits about 500 kilometres northwest of Montreal.
For now, Papatie said Sunday’s announcement is a start.
“I’m satisfied,” she said “There remains work to be done, we’ll stay in communication, and the rest we’ll have to see.”