Nishnawbe Aski Nation police departments in state of emergency

After a 23-year-old woman committed suicide in the back of a police cruiser earlier this month the Nishnawbe Aski Nation has put the Ontario coroner’s office on notice that the police force is in “severe jeopardy”.

By Kenneth Jackson
APTN National News
After a 23-year-old woman committed suicide in the back of a police cruiser earlier this month the Nishnawbe Aski Nation has put the Ontario coroner’s office on notice that the police force is in “severe jeopardy”.

The northern Ontario First Nation wrote Chief Coroner Dan Cass Tuesday. The five-page letter obtained by APTN National News outlines the problems facing the Nishnawbe Aski Police Service (NAPS).

The letter comes a few weeks after Lena Anderson died in the back of a police cruiser on Feb. 1. Anderson killed herself after she was put in the car because there was no heat in the Kasabonika Lake detachment where she was detained.

It’s one of 35 remote communities policed by NAN.

“Sadly, this death is reflective of a larger frightening reality – NAN’s communities have been put in grave jeopardy because of the federal and provincial government’s decision to chronically underfund NAPS,” said the letter co-signed by Grand Chief Harvey Yesno and Frank McKay, chair of the Nishnawbe police board.

Yesno and McKay said their police force doesn’t get the same level of service as say the Ontario Provincial Police.

The letter was also sent to the federal and provincial governments. NAPS is the largest First Nation police force in Canada with 134 uniformed officers and 30 civilians.

NDP MP Charlie Angus represents the area and said the death is the latest in a “series of horror stories” facing the underfunded police department that is working in third-world conditions.

“We have police officers working with no back-up and sleeping in places where you wouldn’t let a dog sleep. We have prisoners being held in the back seats of cars or in makeshift jails where they face risk of either fire or freezing,” said Angus in a statement. “The NAPS officers are being forced to work in conditions that no other police unit in Canada would accept. Why the double standard?”

Angus has been outspoken of the poor conditions of northern First Nations.

He said it’s political and points the blame at Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

He said the Nishnawbe Aski police get 52 per cent of its funding from the feds. The province kicks in the rest.

“The Conservatives talk loudly about being tough on crime and providing safe communities. Yet they are leaving northern citizens and First Nation police to put up with third world conditions. This situation is unacceptable,” he said.

The OPP were asked to look in the Anderson’s death but found it wasn’t a criminal matter according to reports.

According to the letter, there are more problems than just underfunding of the “appalling detachments”.

Promises haven’t been kept since the Kashechewan Inquest in May 2009 that looked into the 2006 deaths of two men who burned to death in a makeshift jail cell in Kashechewan First Nation.

There were seven communities that were designated to receive new modular units but only one community has so far.

“In fact, evidence heard at the Kashechewan Inquest demonstrated that there were at least 19 (police) detachments that did not meet the national building code and did not have sprinkler systems,” the letter said.

As a result, there are a number of communities relying on “unsafe” detachments.

“Simply put, accounting has put First Nation lives at risk,” said the letter.

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4 thoughts on “Nishnawbe Aski Nation police departments in state of emergency

  1. Welll..this is no surprise now is it!!!anything First Nation is third world condition..but Harper can only repeat the same things about the same monies all the time..with no compassion, understanding or “real” commitment to make anything better…He surely would rather see “”HIS”” Canada with NO First Nations at all..he has made that quite clear !

  2. Welll..this is no surprise now is it!!!anything First Nation is third world condition..but Harper can only repeat the same things about the same monies all the time..with no compassion, understanding or “real” commitment to make anything better…He surely would rather see “”HIS”” Canada with NO First Nations at all..he has made that quite clear !

  3. Sure blame it on the federal goverment when its actually the chiefs who dont give the money to the police force. always blaming someone else other then yourselves.

  4. Oh! come on Harper you wouldn,t live in a unsafe place ….. Why in hell are there unsafe detachments up north get with the program forget your steak dinner, or your high priced suit and hand over the money so it might be a little safer for every one

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