Public Safety Canada (PS) is responsible for co-funding with provinces and territories policing services in some First Nation and Inuit communities. Indigenous, policing and provincial/territorial (PT) stakeholders have repeatedly called for reforms to improve the delivery of policing services, in order to better meet the needs of Indigenous communities, close gaps and resolve inequities in the financing and access to Indigenous policing.
Relevant Platform Commitments
- Continue to advance the priorities of Indigenous communities to reclaim full jurisdiction in the areas that matter to them such as child and family services, education, health care, policing, tax, and the administration of justice.
- Accelerate the implementation of the Federal Pathway to Address Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People with Indigenous partners. Accelerate our work with all partners in our collective and shared priorities in the 2021 National Action Plan. Create a standing Federal-Provincial-Territorial table on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People to facilitate and coordinate this work.
The First Nations and Inuit Policing Program (FNIPP) provides funding for professional, dedicated and responsive policing services to First Nation and Inuit communities in Canada. In 2020-21, the FNIPP provided close to $171.4M to support approximately 1,350 police officer positions in over 425 First Nation and Inuit Communities, representing roughly 62% of First Nation and Inuit Communities in Canada.
FNIPP policing agreements are cost-shared between the federal government (52%) and the relevant province or territory (PT) (48%). This cost-share ratio reflects a shared interest pursuant to the Constitution Act, 1867, where the federal government has legislative jurisdiction for “Indians, and lands reserved for Indians” (s.91(24)) and PTs have exercised their legislative jurisdiction over the administration of justice, including policing (s.92(14)).
There are two main models supported by FNIPP funding:
- Self-Administered Police Service Agreements (SAs): where a First Nation or Inuit police service is authorized or established by the PT government, and provides primary (day-to-day) policing services to a First Nation or Inuit community; and
- Community Tripartite Agreements (CTAs): where a contingent of officers from the RCMP provide dedicated policing to a First Nation or Inuit community that is intended to supplement the level of PT policing services provided to that community. CTAs are made pursuant to bilateral Framework Agreements between Canada and the participating PT.
The Program was created in 1991, and has faced increasing criticism over the years as being inappropriate for funding an essential service such as policing. Recent reports, such as the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) stress the limits of the current model while pointing to the need for fundamental transformation. Specifically, Call for Justice 5.4 from the MMIWG National Inquiry’s Final Report states, “We call upon all governments to immediately and dramatically transform Indigenous policing from its current state as a mere delegation to an exercise in self-governance and self-determination over policing. To do this, the federal government’s First Nations Policing Program must be replaced with a new legislative and funding framework, consistent with international and domestic policing best practices and standards, that must be developed by the federal, provincial, and territorial governments in partnership with Indigenous Peoples.”
The current discretionary financial envelope approach has resulted in gaps in program delivery across Canada. Despite new investments of up to $291.2M over five years beginning in 2018 in First Nation and Inuit communities served under the FNIPP to support officer safety, policing equipment and an increased officer complement, Indigenous police services continue to face insufficient resources to effectively deliver responsive police services. Additionally, although Indigenous communities not served by FNIPP-funded policing receive services from existing provincial, territorial or municipal police services (or services from the RCMP contracted by a province or territory), PS has received unsolicited requests from First Nation and Inuit communities for FNIPP-funded services. PT governments, particularly Nunavut, have similarly called for an expansion of the program.
While the Program serves predominantly First Nation communities, there is one Inuit SA in Quebec, as well as various CTAs in Inuit communities in Northwest Territories and Newfoundland and Labrador. Currently, there are no FNIPP agreements in Nunavut, and only very limited presence in the Northwest Territories. Metis communities are ineligible for the Program. First Nations, Inuit and Metis have all expressed interest in policing and community safety, noting that it supports goals of self-determination and reconciliation.
PS also manages and administers the First Nation and Inuit Policing Facilities Program (FNIPFP), which provides dedicated funding to support the construction, renovation or repair of policing facilities in First Nation and Inuit communities. This Program was announced in 2018 with a budget of $88.6 million over five years, and investments are similarly cost shared with PTs (52% from the federal government and 48% from the PT government, or from the First Nation or Inuit community). Since the implementation of this program in 2018-19, the demand, often located in northern and remote communities, has far exceeded the funding envelope.
Budget 2021 announced $861 million over five years, beginning in 2021-22, and $145 million ongoing, to support culturally responsive policing and community safety services in Indigenous communities. This includes:
- $43.7 million over five years, beginning in 2021-22, for PS and Indigenous Services Canada to co-develop a legislative framework for First Nations policing that recognizes First Nations policing as an essential service.
- $540.3 million over five years, beginning in 2021-22, and $126.8 million ongoing, to support Indigenous communities currently served under the FNIPP and expand the program to new Indigenous communities.
- $108.6 million over five years, beginning in 2021-22, to repair, renovate, and replace policing facilities in First Nation and Inuit communities.
- $64.6 million over five years, beginning in 2021-22, and $18.1 million ongoing, to enhance Indigenous-led crime prevention strategies and community safety services.
$103.8 million over five years, beginning in 2021-22, to Indigenous Services Canada for a new Pathways to Safe Indigenous Communities Initiative to support Indigenous communities to develop more holistic community-based safety and wellness models.
PS has been laying the groundwork to co-develop a legislative framework for First Nations policing and to expand access to the FNIPP. While this work has notably included establishing relationships with First Nations organizations such as the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and the First Nations Chiefs of Police Association (FNCPA), other Indigenous groups (e.g., Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK)) have also expressed interest in co-developing legislation.
PS has recently entered into contribution agreements with the AFN and the FNCPA to support activities related to First Nations policing reforms, including regional engagement activities, and to better understand policing priorities and interests.
PTs have signaled that Indigenous policing is an important priority for them. There is strong interest from PTs in advancing reconciliation and responding to Indigenous community needs by cost-sharing new or expanded FNIPP agreements, co-funding investments under the FNIPFP, or to participate in other Indigenous community safety initiatives, such as Community Safety Officers. PT governments have also advocated for additional federal funding for the FNIPP for several years. The issue of FNIPP funding and Indigenous policing reforms have been an agenda item at FPT fora at all levels for the past several years, including at the most recent December 2020 Ministers Responsible for Justice and Public Safety meeting.
PTs also continue to advocate for reforms to how Indigenous policing is funded by the federal government, including potential legislative reform. Given the shared legislative responsibility for Indigenous policing, federal legislation in the area of First Nations or Indigenous policing would need to be complementary to provincial/territorial policing legislation. PTs have varying degrees of readiness when it comes to the concept of an FPT legislative framework. Some PTs, such as Ontario and Alberta, have recently amended their legislation to provide more equitable footing for First Nations police services. Others, such as British Columbia, are currently reviewing their policing legislation. Some, such as the Territories and Newfoundland and Labrador, do not have legislative frameworks in place to support SAs, and would likely be more interested in FNIPP expansion efforts than legislative co-development in the near term. Some PTs have expressed disappointment that recent efforts towards a legislative framework for First Nations policing have not included RCMP CTAs and are focused on SAs exclusively.
Role of Indigenous Organizations
Indigenous leadership has stressed the urgency of moving forward with policing reforms. There are high expectations that Indigenous policing reform activities will advance in the short- to medium-term. The AFN has passed multiple resolutions related to reforming First Nations policing and is uniquely placed and ready to undertake engagement with many First Nations and to support co-development work with federal and PT governments towards First Nations policing legislation. These expectations must be balanced with the need for sufficient time to co-develop legislation that would effectively support the funding of Indigenous policing, which is a complex undertaking, given that only one province (Ontario) is actively contemplating a legislated funding mechanism for First Nations policing.
Calls for Indigenous policing reform have also been made by Inuit and Métis leaders. National Indigenous Organizations for these groups are in the process of identifying policing and community safety priorities and, in some cases, associated workplans. Indigenous partners have expressed expectations that the co-development process would be advanced at a pace that reflects their own governance and approval processes.
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