Decolonizing Policing in Indigenous Communities

AuthorKent Roach
| 127
Decolonizing Policing in
Indigenous Communities
Indigenous police services are the only Canadian police that have been chron-
ically underfunded. is is so even though they have signicant potential to
take a broader approach to community safety, as examined in the previous
chapter. In , there were y-six self-administered Indigenous police ser-
vices funded jointly for renewable ve-year periods by the federal and prov-
incial governments under a federal program but accountable to First Nations
communities. Today, one-third of these services have disbanded. e head
of the Kahnawake Peacekeepers has explained: “We’re treated as second class
citizens” in a “program [where] you have to justify your existence. Do you
think the RCMP ever wonder about that?”
Some of the remaining Indigenous police services have brought human
rights complaints claiming that, like First Nations child welfare services, they
have been subject to discriminatory underfunding. e Canadian Human
Rights Tribunal found in early  that an Indigenous police service 
kilometres north of Quebec City had been chronically underfunded since its
establishment in . e head of the Association of First Nations and Inuit
Police Directors of Quebec said all twenty-two Indigenous police services
in Quebec were underfunded, adding that the funding program “does not
allow us to cover the actual expense of our public safety to meet a minimum
level of service. . . . A victim of a crime in an Indigenous community should
be able to met with the same support, the same tools, as in a non-Indigenous
128 | Canadian PoliCing: Why and hoW it Must Change
e Tribunal rejected Canada’s arguments that only Quebec had juris-
diction and that its program was armative action rather than systemic
discrimination. It found that the money that the federal and provincial gov-
ernments provided did not allow the Indigenous service to provide police
services at the same level as that provided by non-First Nations police forces.
e federal provincial funding program perpetuated existing discrimination,
including the overpolicing and underprotection of Indigenous people.
e  program funds not only Indigenous police services but also
additional ocers from the RCMP and the Ontario and Quebec police. e
Tribunal suggested that this alternative would not have been responsive to
the particular needs of the community. Similarly, a  Auditor General of
Canada study found that Indigenous communities oen had little input into
what these “extra” ocers employed by the RCMP or the provincial police
would do and that the ocers were oen diverted to core policing functions.
As discussed in Chapter , the RCMP and the provincial forces have long
colonial histories of overpolicing, underprotecting, and failing Indigenous
In another community bringing a human rights complaint alleging
unequal services and systemic discrimination, two of its young mem-
bers, Ricardo Wesley and James Goodwin, burned to death in  while
detained in facilities without re detectors or re-retardant blankets on the
Kashechewan First Nation near James Bay. A coroner’s inquest in  found
that as many as nineteen Nishnawbe Aski police detachments did not have
sprinkler systems installed. In , twenty-three-year-old Lena Anderson
committed suicide while detained in a police vehicle aer members of the
same Indigenous police servicehad been ordered not to place prisoners in
inadequate detention facilities.
e Justin Trudeau government has committed  million in funding
over ve years to Indigenous policing,  million to repair and replace
policing facilities in First Nations and Inuit communities, and  million
to co-develop legislation to recognize First Nations policing as an essential
service. It remains to be seen whether this legislation will be exible enough
to allow First Nations communities to make true innovations in policing and
community safety in accordance with their needs. e federal program has
been expanded to include Inuit communities, but without any Indigenous
police services or even any special agreements with the RCMP being formed
in the three northern territories. e federal program does not include the
majority of Indigenous people in Canada who live o-reserve or the Métis.

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