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Constables lacking on First Nations

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By Mia Rabson

OTTAWA — More than a third of northern Manitoba First Nations have no provincially certified special band constables, the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak reported Wednesday.

Twenty-seven of the MKO’s 30 reserves responded to a survey about policing and 11 reported not having a single provincially certified band constable in their community.

The issue was highlighted last week when Northlands Denesuline First Nation made public photos of band members who had been detained in a hockey arena with handcuffs and a tow chain. The First Nation, 350 kilometres northwest of Thompson, lost its access to the RCMP holding cell on the reserve when two certified band constables quit in June. When the RCMP are not in the community, Northlands has no sanctioned way to hold people who break the law.

Four times since June the reserve has detained intoxicated people in a dressing room in the arena.

A spokesman for MKO said Grand Chief David Harper will meet with Manitoba Justice Minister Andrew Swan to discuss the situation.

MKO wants funding for band constables to become part of the Police Service Agreement between Manitoba and Ottawa. The agreement requires Manitoba to fund 70 per cent of the police services in Manitoba while Ottawa funds the remaining 30 per cent.

Last week, Swan and federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews blamed each other for the problem with policing in Northlands.

The MKO spokesman said it’s clear there is a need for band constables. The survey found there is an average of 1,057 police calls each year, or about three per day on the reserves. As well, band constables detained people an average of 389 times in each community, or more than one detention a day.

MKO is seeking a meeting with Toews in Ottawa next week.

mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

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