A First Nations community in northern Ontario is marching on with a human rights complaint regarding what it sees as inadequate funding for its police force, despite a recent pledge from the federal government to infuse the program with new money.
The Mushkegowuk Council, which represents seven First Nation communities covering a large area in northern Ontario, argues it receives lower-quality police services and facilities than non-Indigenous communities.
It launched a complaint after two men who were being held for intoxication burned to death at a police detachment on Kashechewan First Nation more than a decade ago.
The council’s case lingers at the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. While less formal than a court of law, the tribunal legally decides whether a person or organization has engaged in a discriminatory practice under the Canadian Human Rights Act.
This week, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale announced his department will spend up to $291 million over the next five years on policing in First Nations and Inuit communities to help improve salaries, hire new officers and buy new equipment.
Grand Chief Jonathan Solomon applauded the announcement, but said he has no plans to discontinue the case.
“We are committed to securing a binding legal guarantee of adequate police resources,” said Solomon.
“Two young men died in a tragic police station fire in my community because of underfunding of our police. This must not happen again.”
Ontario waiting for more details
Through the First Nations policing program, the federal government pays about half the cost of policing for about 450 communities representing more than 420,000 Canadians, including many remote and fly-in-only areas.
On Wednesday, Goodale said he hoped the provinces and territories would also increase their contributions.