Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

The North lacks basic security

  • Print

FLIN FLON -- When First Nations stress the need for independence, they don't have in mind citizen patrols filling in law-enforcement gaps or prisoners chained to the floor of an arena dressing room.

Recent headlines have exposed these and other shortcomings in efforts to uphold law and order across the 30 largely isolated, often crime-riddled reserves of northern Manitoba.

The problems in some cases have been embellished. In April, for example, the Free Press wrongly reported Pukatawagan had only a single Mountie. In fact, no Manitoba detachment carries just a solo officer.

Still, there can be little doubt David Harper, Grand Chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO), is right to describe a "crisis" of policing in the North.

For a number of reserves, the distance from police protection is startling. Tadoule Lake, the most extreme example, is 350 kilometres north of the Thompson RCMP who police it. Police fly in on a scheduled and as-needed basis.

"This is a lawless town right now," says Thomas Duck, a longtime resident of the community of 325.

Yet Duck does not feel endangered, saying a community surveillance program with which he is involved helps keep a lid on misconduct.

Duck describes crime in Tadoule Lake as more foolish than treacherous. A young person causing alcohol-fuelled aggravation, for instance, will be told to "smarten up" and go home to bed.

But if something more egregious happens, the Mounties must be called in -- and it's a long wait to see them.

Some advocates believe First Nations need more police officers even as, according to the RCMP website, detachments like God's Lake, Oxford House, Shamattawa and Moose Lake already employ more Mounties per capita than any of the North's major centres of Thompson, The Pas and Flin Flon.

RCMP spokeswoman Sgt. Line Karpish says decisions on how to allocate resources to a given community are made in partnership with the province. Consideration goes to workload, demands for service and geographical location, among other factors.

Is stationing more Mounties on reserves the right approach?

Karpish says only that under the Provincial Policing Service Agreement, the RCMP receives a budget that it manages "as efficiently as we can based on the allocated resources."

What about federally funded band constables, who for years have been working hand in hand with reserve-based Mounties? Can't we just hire more of them?

Karpish calls band constables an asset to both the RCMP and their communities, providing "important knowledge of the people, dynamics and geographical area we police that our members may not have."

Unfortunately, more than a third of northern Manitoba reserves have no provincially certified band constables, according to the MKO.

Worse, the issue has fallen into the territory of provincial-federal bickering. The feds blame the province for the lack of band constables, the province returns the favour, and nothing gets solved.

In Tadoule Lake, Duck would like to see a greater RCMP presence as well as band constables.

But he says constables would need to be imported from outside the community.

The challenges around reserve policing have fuelled predictable claims that high crime is guaranteed until First Nations address rampant social ills.

True enough. In the meantime, however, surely Ottawa and Broadway can put aside their finger-pointing to reach a healthier solution.

Even a place as far-flung as Tadoule Lake has a nursing station. How much sense does it make to have medical emergencies covered but not, in any sort of prompt fashion, criminal ones?

Politicians of all stripes agree in order for First Nations to succeed, new opportunities must take hold.

None of them can realistically expect that to happen in the absence of basic security.


Jonathon Naylor is editor of The Reminder newspaper in Flin Flon.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 25, 2012 A11

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Jets fans decibel level through roof for first playoff game at MTS Centre

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Bright sunflowers lift their heads toward the south east skies in a  large sunflower field on Hwy 206 and #1 Thursday Standup photo. July 31,  2012 (Ruth Bonneville/Winnipeg Free Press)
  • PHIL.HOSSACK@FREEPRESS.MB.CA 090728 / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS White Pelicans belly up to the sushi bar Tuesday afternoon at Lockport. One of North America's largest birds is a common sight along the Red RIver and on Lake Winnipeg. Here the fight each other for fish near the base of Red RIver's control structure, giving human fisher's downstream a run for their money.

View More Gallery Photos


Do you think the Jets will win Game 4 on Wednesday?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google