Wednesday, February 12, 2014
First Nations policing going the way of the dodo?
Policing northern First Nations communities in Manitoba will be sporadic in the near future. The Conservative government is proposing to terminate the Band Constable Program (BCP) by March 31, 2015- which has been in existence since 1969.
The decision made by Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney will be counterproductive according to NDP Manitoba Justice Minister Andrew Swan. During the NDP annual meeting; Swan motioned a resolution to oppose the decision made by the Conservative government.
“You tell me how four (RCMP) officers on patrol are going to provide public safety to 31 First Nations across Manitoba including... remote First Nations that are not connected to a road network,” commented Swan to the media.
Front end policing issues on First Nations is a recurring theme, and one that instigates a sleuth of logistical and legal quagmire for all involved. According to Swan, front end policing on First Nations need to remain.
Former RCMP Officer and present Mayor of The Pas, Manitoba Alan McLauchlan facilitated the BCP program (among others) in recent memory.
“I have mixed feelings on the announcement. First of all, the BCP was fraught with problems, underfunded, under equipped and the BCP were asked to do things that they were not supposed to. However the program provided a level of security for communities,” commented McLauchlan.
“It was a contract course developed for the Public Safety Canada (PSC) and was provided on demand. I think, in total we provided the BCP course three times for the PSC and twice for other communities.”
McLauchlan, and Swan alike; feel that ceasing funding the BCP program will not improve conditions on First Nations communities which look towards their own in order to provide assistance and maintain the public safety of First Nations band members.
In addition, those who invested and graduated from the BCP program and have returned to serve within their First Nations communities will no longer be able to work, “That is up to the band- they are employees of the band- either they stay and the band finds them (other means of employment) or they are laid off,” said McLauchlan. The Pas, Manitoba provincial MLA Frank Whitehead is equally frustrated and opined that reducing public safety services such as the BCP program on First Nations in the future; may create more conflict.
“From past experience, when the federal government discontinues one level of government to First Nations; they will probably do the same with education, health and other programs.”
Whitehead admits that the Manitoba provincial government is ill equipped to fund First Nations services at the present time; should the federal government continue to divest itself of its responsibility to fund First Nations, “I’m concerned about that; obviously First Nations communities have to be serviced.” McLauchlan reiterated that sentiment and added, “This may be an opportunity for the Federal and Provincial governments to work together with First Nations communities… to morph the program into something new.”