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FSIN, First Nation seek say in policing model
The Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nation and the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations have filed a statement of claim accusing the provincial and federal governments of not honouring a policing agreement.
“This is an action of breach of contract,” said FSIN Vice Chief Bobby Cameron, in charge of the justice portfolio for FSIN. Cameron said all the numbered treaties in Saskatchewan refer to policing and the Crown is obligated to undertake its duty.
“The legal action shows a sort of fundamental problem that has gone wrong in First Nation policing,” said Ian Wagner, of Silas E. Halyk QC, who represents both the FSIN and Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nation in this matter. “Within the litigation as well there is one of the main points that this is a treaty right litigation.”
Former Beardy’s and Okemasis Chief Rick Gamble said that his First Nation has met their part in a Community Tripartite Agreement that was signed by the First Nation with the federal and provincial governments for providing policing on the Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nation. However, he holds, the other two levels of government have not met their obligations. The CTA required the First Nation to build an RCMP detachment and provide housing for two RCMP members. Beardy’s and Okemasis have met both these commitments.
“We signed the CTA in good spirit and it has not been met,” said Gamble.
Gamble claims the RCMP were to spend 80 per cent of its time policing the First Nation. Instead, the RCMP spent the majority of its time policing the surrounding area. In fact, said Gamble, the issue became such a concern for the community that Beardy’s and Okemasis hired and trained three of its own members to serve as peace officers and provided them with vehicles. However, the band ran out of money and had to lay off the peace officers.
“This is why we’re bringing this matter to court,” said Gamble. “In order for us to adequately police our community we need to have a real strong and true partnership with the federal government, provincial government and RCMP in the true spirit and intent of treaty. We have an inherent right to govern ourselves.”
Beardy’s and Okemasis wants the government to pay for the First Nation to have its own police force which is not tied to the RCMP.
Presently, the federal government covers 52 per cent of policing costs on the reserve, with the province picking up the remainder.
“Policing on the reserves has far too long been a system controlled by the RCMP. It is time for First Nations to take control and have their rights acknowledged and implemen-ted,” said Cameron.
Wagner said the present policing situation leaves First Nations with only an advisory role and no control. This litigation pushes the point that “there is a First Nations right not just to be passive receivers of policing but to have true control and input in partnership with them.”
Wagner said the purpose of the litigation is not to establish a model for policing as each First Nations has different needs and unique situations.
“This is the first time in Saskatchewan where the First Nations of Saskatchewan said we have this right and we want it acknowledged, and we want to work with everyone in or outside of the box to come up with the best system possible,” he said.
Wagner noted that while the litigation is being undertaken, FSIN and Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nation are having private conversations with both the provincial and federal governments “to discuss what should be going on in policing…. What Beardy’s and Okemasis are happy about is that at this point, the province is willing to look at new methods of addressing issues.”
“Our goal is safer communities. We need more proactive policing, crime reduction and policing systems that acknowledge the rights and obligations of First Nations.
It’s the same goal and object for each city, town and communities across Canada to have safety and peace in our communities,” said Cameron.
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