Kiashke Zaaging Anishnaabek, also known as Gull Bay First Nation in northwestern Ontario, is taking Canada to court over how the feds fund policing services in the community.
Chief Wilfred King said the community, of just over 300, only has three offices – and one of them is on sick leave.
He told a news conference in Ottawa Monday that officers can’t do their jobs safely.
“In recent incidents where we have had a violent offender in the community, the police would not respond because they could not get the necessary back up from Armstrong or Thunder Bay detachment,” he said.
Kiashke Zaaging Anishnaabek is in a tripartite agreement with Ontario and Canada over money to pay for police officers.
The community is suing Ottawa for $10 million for negligence and breaching its common law and fiduciary duties.
Lawyer Chantelle Bryson said for decades Canada has acknowledged the negative impact of its First Nations community funding policies – and has done little to fix it.
“After 20 years of bad faith… they’re doing it knowingly, its been spelled much like the child welfare situation, its been spelled out over and over by their own report, the federal auditor general, academic reports, etc.,” she said. “They know and they hold the axe over the necks of the communities and it’s either this or nothing.”
Bryson was also critical of the federal government’s response to the recent crisis in James Smith Cree Nation where one man stabbed and killed 11 people – another 18 were injured.
She said coming to the community to deliver $42.4 million is not a long term solution.
“The answer is equitable police service in the community with a full officer compliment, comparable to other communities in similar situations,” she said. “With full pay, with the full benefits that all other officers receive, including mental health especially and pensions and a proper police station and proper communications equipment and proper information technology and proper training.”
According to King, other First Nations in Ontario that have similar agreements are in support of the claim.
APTN News reached out to Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino but didn’t get a response back.