Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Manitoba chief wants more for reserves' police

Clearsky seeks meeting with Toews

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OTTAWA -- The head of Manitoba's southern chiefs wants a meeting with Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, hoping to squeeze more money out of him for on-reserve policing.

Murray Clearsky, grand chief of the Southern Chiefs Organization, wrote to Toews Wednesday to request an immediate meeting. It came after Toews said publicly this week he was meeting with other chiefs to discuss aboriginal policing Feb. 26.

That meeting, with chiefs from Quebec and Labrador, comes as policing agreements affecting 26 communities in Quebec are set to expire at the end of March.

Toews and Prime Minister Stephen Harper have indicated a decision about police funding will be forthcoming in the federal budget, expected later this month.

"As has been indicated by the prime minister, a funding decision will be made in the near future," he said during question period Thursday.

Clearsky wants more than that assurance; he wants stable, full-time funding that isn't set to expire every year or two.

"The short-term policing agreements and funding cap make it extremely difficult to provide the expected level of adequate service in a balanced approach using prevention and protection as the core foundations for creating an atmosphere which provides for the safety and well-being of all community members," he wrote in his letter.

He said there is a discrepancy in what Ottawa pays to have the RCMP police reserves and what it pays for aboriginal police services to do so.

"Your Conservative government's 'tough on crime' agenda should have the inclusion of stable, well-staffed and properly funded police services so we can continue reducing crime rates in all parts of the country and make it a safe environment for all our citizens."

The issue of policing on reserves made headlines last summer when Northlands First Nation Chief Joe Antsanen went public with the fact his community had no policing most of the time. The two band constables that were trained and able to detain people at least until the RCMP could arrive had quit. Ottawa had provided no further funding to train new constables, and the band was no longer able to access the RCMP holding facilities without a trained band constable available.

At least four times last summer, people who needed to be detained ended up chained to the floor of an arena dressing room.

Toews and Manitoba Attorney General Andrew Swan took turns pointing the finger at each other for the problem.

Policing is a provincial responsibility, but Ottawa provides almost half the money for policing on reserves.

Toews' spokesman said the Conservatives spend $122 million on aboriginal policing agreements on more than 400 First Nations, up from $92 million in 2005-06 when the Liberals were in power. There was no response when asked if Toews would meet Clearsky.

Liberal Aboriginal Affairs critic Carolyn Bennett said Toews has to stop blaming the provinces and develop permanent funding agreements.

"Every statistic shows (aboriginal policing) works," she said. "But it requires stable and predictable funding."

mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 1, 2013 A12

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