Inferior Policing for Aboriginal People

First Nations Police Station - Medieval Cell Locking System

"Medieval" Locking System (Pictured in NAPS: A Sacred Calling)

First of all and with the utmost respect, we acknowledge, honour and commend our community police officers for their bravery, care, dedication and hard work. NAPS officers work extremely hard and under very difficult circumstances.

Despite the hard work of officers and staff, policing in the Mushkegowuk First Nations is inferior to the policing in non-Aboriginal communities. Policing is one of the most basic governmental services. There is no reason why the people of the Mushkegowuk First Nations should receive inferior government services, policing or otherwise.

The fatal police station fire in Kashechewan First Nation is one of the most terrible and shocking consequences of the flawed federal system for Aboriginal policing. The station in Kashechewan burned to the ground in 2006, killing two young men trapped in their cells inside. The station was dilapidated and unsafe. Years earlier, in 2001, a federal government report acknowledged that the station was unsafe and recommended that it be replaced. These conditions would not have been tolerated in a non-Aboriginal community. These young men would not have died if they were not young First Nations men living on a First Nations reserve in northern Ontario.

A Coroner’s Inquest investigated the tragic fire. The inquest Jury recommended that the federal government provide the funding required to ensure equal policing as between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities. Read all of the Coroner’s inquest jury recommendations here.

OPP Truck

Ontario Provincial Police Truck

First Nations policing is merely a federal government program. It has no formal legal framework, which leaves First Nation communities without important rights. In contrast, non-Aboriginal policing in Ontario is governed by the Ontario Police Services Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. P.15 and its associated regulations. The Act and Regulations set out legally binding policing standards, complaints procedures, and oversight mechanisms. The Police Services Act also creates a special process whereby municipal police services may appeal to an independent commission for a hearing and a binding decision on the adequacy of its budget. There are no equivalent legal rights, standards, and procedures for Aboriginal police services or the residents of the Mushkegowuk First Nations communities.

On the ground, the disparity in services amounts to insufficient staff, facilities, training, special programs, and more. One federal government report on Aboriginal policing facilities found that “many of the First Nations police services demonstrably have the poorest quality policing facilities in Canada.” For the Mushkegowuk communities, staffing levels are insufficient to meet the workload, particularly in the expensive and demanding circumstances in remote, northern communities. The disparity in services is well documented.

Some improvements have been made since the human rights complaint was started. Most importantly, many police stations were replaced, including most of the stations pictured on this website. But problems with facilities still remain. For example:

  • Officer housing is still highly lacking. This can mean that experienced officers leave the force for other work, which impacts service quality.
  • The new stations are essentially portables, rather than permanent buildings. This is contrary to recommendation 39 of the Kashechewan fire inquest jury, which reads as follows: “Permanent purpose-built detachments speak to equality of service, pride of policing and professionalism. The standard for NAPS detachments should be brick and mortar.”
  • The underlying systemic problems, such as the lack of major capital funding and budget uncertainty, have not been resolved.
  • The new buildings have a shorter life span because they are portables and because of the sometimes harsh weather conditions. There must be a plan in place to make sure that they are replaced with adequate buildings in a timely manner, before they fall into the same state of disrepair as the old Kashechewan station did.

For more information, see the documents and reports section or read these quotes regarding the substandard Aboriginal policing.

Summary Chart Comparing Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Policing

Policing in Mushkegowuk Communities Policing in non-First Nation Communities
No binding legal standards for the adequacy or effectiveness of police services or facilities Police services are held to the binding, legal standards in Ontario Regulation 3/99 (“Adequacy And Effectiveness Of Police Services”)
No legally binding procedures for civilian complaints or independent oversight mechanisms Multiple legally binding complaints procedures and oversight mechanisms, including the Special Investigations Unit and the Independent Police Review Director
No mechanism to ensure police budgets are adequate A municipal police service may appeal to an independent commission for a hearing and a binding decision on the adequacy of its budget
NAPS has little power in budget negotiations; it essentially faces a “take it or leave it” scenario The OPP and municipal police services have a high degree of control over their budgets for municipal policing in the framework created by the Police Services Act
Long history of unsafe and inadequate police stations (e.g. the dilapidated Kashechewan police station that burned down in 2006, killing two young men – read the Coroner’s inquest report) Superior police station facilities (for an example, see this video comparing an OPP and a NAPS station)
Major capital funding is unavailable under the First Nations Policing Policy (e.g. for new police police stations) Capital funding is available
Funding is provided as if the First Nation police service is an “add-on” to the OPP, leading to inadequate funding because NAPS is the primary police presence (see the Ipperwash Report) Non-First Nations police services are funded, operated, and supported as the primary police force
Funding is only available for on-reserve policing, despite the massive area between communities that must be policed (e.g. for bootlegging) (see FNPP Directive re Eligible Expenses) Funding is generally available for the area that must be policed
Funding is inconsistent and unreliable as it is provided through a federal program without a formal legal framework Funding is more reliable and consistent
Insufficient officers, support staff, resources, community policing programs, substance abuse programs, and other basic policing programs relative to policing needs, workload, and resource requirements Comparatively more officers, support staff, resources, and basic policing programs relative to policing needs, workload, and resource requirements
24/7 policing is largely unavailable 24/7 policing is usually available; police in non-First Nations communities are legally required to provide services 24 hours a day (See O. Reg 3/99)

Quotes Regarding Inferior Services for First Nations People

NAPS Police Station - Outhouse

NAPS Police Station - Outhouse (Photo: 2001 federal government report)

“…many of the First Nations police services demonstrably have the poorest quality policing facilities in Canada.”

Public Works Canada, Renewal of First Nations Policing Facilities, Feb 2003

“Proper Policing facilities have been a huge issue for NAPS, and their horrible state has been documented by PWGSC during their on site inspections.

It is well-documented and general knowledge that many of the buildings meet no industry standards and suffer from serious health and safety problems, such as the lack of fire protection, no running water, inadequate cells for prisoners etc.”

Winona Embuldeniya, Public Safety Canada (2004)

“NAPS detachments generally fall a long way short of acceptable facility and operational standards for the RCMP and OPP in remote locations. The detachments are poorly equipped, basic facilities (cells, toilets. etc.) are missing or inadequate, and the buildings are riddled with building code violations.

Typically, the buildings are functionally inadequate, poorly equipped, not properly built-out for police purposes, and in an advanced state of disrepair.

most of the existing facilities should probably be replaced with new facilities immediately or in the very near future

Only 7 of the 26 inspected detachments have some form of officer accommodation…. Most of this residential space is in very poor condition and recommended for demolition.

In comparison with the standard for remote RCMP detachments, none of the NAPS detachments meet the recommended space requirements. On average, the NAPS detachments are less than half the size of the recommended RCMP standard

10 of the 16 fly-in locations “are in poor or very poor condition and are considered to be beyond repair”

Overview of Federal Government Assessment of NAPS Detachments (2001)

[Regarding various police stations in Mushkegowuk First Nations communities]:

Mold in NAPS Police Station (Photo: 2001 federal government report)

Mold in NAPS Police Station (Photo: 2001 federal government report)

“It is believed that the exterior walls are not insulated …
The ceiling and the upper walls in the bathroom are covered with mildew due to the fact that the detachment is not supplied with fresh air, though exhaust fan is installed in the rooms, the ventilation is basically non-existent. The smell in the detachment, at times, was hard for the officers to tolerate. Lack of ventilation in a crowded room is a major deficiency which could lead to serious health problems caused by moulds, airborne diseases, etc. …
The police station is in such a poor condition that a new accommodation should be provided without delay.

The foundation has shifted due to freeze & thaw cycles, as a result, the floor surface is uneven and the flooring has cracked at various locations…. Some of the window panes are broken and the frames are damaged. …
…with the problems of shifting foundation, poor building exterior, inadequate detention facilities and the lacking of fire separation, the police station is considered to be in very poor condition and recommended for demolition and re-build.

Based upon the lack of cells, minimal office space, security and privacy issues and occupational requirements of the NAPS officers it is recommended to relocate this police station to a new facility.”

Detailed Federal Government Assessment of NAPS Detachments (2001)

“Government documents … have identified the central challenges for NAPS as capital requirements (facilities for the 35 detachments), recruiting and retaining officers, inexperienced front-line officers, service levels and the quality of investigations, logistics associated with policing widely scattered, isolated small communities, and social problems such as suicide and substance abuse. These are quite valid comments but stop short of the fundamental need for “new thinking” on the part of federal and provincial authorities. On the federal side, there has to be more focus on the fact that NAPS and other SA police services, certainly in Ontario and Quebec, are here to stay and have replaced OPP policing, not just enhanced it.”

Professor Don Clairmont (2006)

“The [federal First Nations Policing Policy] assumes that First Nation policing will be an add-on or enhancement to basic policing services provided by the RCMP or a provincial police service. That assumption leads to inadequate funding where self-administered First Nation police services are actually the primary service providers for their communities, as is the case in Ontario and some other provinces.”

The Honourable Sidney B. Linden, Report of the Ipperwash Inquiry (2007)

NAPS Officer Residence (Photo: 2001 federal government report)

NAPS Officer Residence Conditions like this lead to high officer turnover (Photo: 2001 federal government report)

“The comparative lack of capital and operational funding for First Nation police services has significant consequences in a number of areas, including their ability to recruit and retain qualified police officers, respond to occupations and protests, provide professional, efficient police services, train and support their officers, and meet even basic capital and infrastructure requirements.”

The Honourable Sidney B. Linden, Report of the Ipperwash Inquiry (2007)

“Our research, consultations, forums, and submissions from the parties have consistently confirmed that First Nation police services are working with restricted budgets and substandard facilities, which frustrates their efforts to provide high quality police services.”

The Honourable Sidney B. Linden, Report of the Ipperwash Inquiry (2007)

“There is no reason why residents of First Nations in Ontario should have lower-quality policing than non-Aboriginal Ontarians do.”

The Honourable Sidney B. Linden, Report of the Ipperwash Inquiry (2007)

Canada’s Flawed First Nations Policing Program

NAPS Officer Residence - Conditions like this lead to high officer turnover (Photo: 2001 federal government report)

NAPS Officer Residence - Conditions like this lead to high officer turnover (Photo: 2001 federal government report)

The disparity in services between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal community stems from serious flaws in the federal government’s First Nations Policing Program and from a lack of federal funding and support.

The flaws in the federal government’s First Nations Policing Program include:

These issues are discussed in more details in the materials in the reports and documents section.


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