OTTAWA -- Public Safety Minister Vic Toews committed $612.4 million over five years Monday to renew the First Nations Policing Program.
It is not clear yet which Manitoba communities will benefit or what that benefit will be. Toews made the announcement during question period Monday after more than a week of questions about how he would handle the program, which was set to expire later this month.
Toews said it is the largest investment since the program was established more than two decades ago. It affects 400 First Nations. There are nine First Nations Policing Program agreements in Manitoba, but myriad ways policing is handled on First Nations.
Some reserves in southern Manitoba have their own police force, the Dakota Ojibway Police Service. However, most rely on a permanent or intermittent presence of the RCMP. Many reserves in northern Manitoba have band constables who have some police powers but are not full police officers. They most often work in conjunction with the RCMP who do not have a permanent presence on every reserve.
Last summer, issues with the national program came to a head when Northlands First Nation went public with the fact it no longer had any band constables and therefore was without policing when the RCMP were not around. On several occasions, the reserve resorted to chaining detained residents to the floor of a hockey arena dressing room while awaiting the RCMP's arrival.
Although policing is generally a provincial responsibility, Ottawa provides 52 per cent of the funding for aboriginal policing. Toews has yet to negotiate specific agreements with First Nations and the provincial government for funding for Manitoba communities.