Manitoba First Nations communities demand police service
Published Wednesday, October 24, 2012 10:22PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, October 24, 2012 10:39PM EDT
The residents of remote First Nations communities in Northern Manitoba say they must tackle drugs, gangs and domestic violence on their own because the provincial and federal governments won’t fund a local police service.
In the Garden Hill First Nations reserve, 12 untrained and unarmed band officers patrol the community of 3,000 people and make citizens’ arrests when necessary. The reserve is located about 600 kilometres north of Winnipeg and the nearest RCMP detachment is a boatride or plane trip away.
Those who must police the area say they are overwhelmed by the crime levels.
“In one month we get over 200 prisoners,” said Gary Wass, a band constable.
The prisoners are housed in makeshift jails, which can take different forms. One suspect had to be chained in an arena locker.
When police officers do arrive in the community, their vehicles are often damaged because of the rough terrain and lack of proper roads.
Prisoners and incident reports are logged in notebooks – there are no computers available to store and track crime data. So far this year, more than 1,800 names have been scribbled in the crime books.
The nearby community of St. Theresa Point is also experiencing the same problems and the residents there are asking for help.
Of the 30 First Nations reserves in Northern Manitoba, only about half have a constant police presence. Band officers have no legal authority to conduct drug searches or make arrests, but they’ve resorted to doing just that in an effort to keep their communities safe.
Across Canada, there are 38 First Nations police authorities and community leaders say it’s time to introduce them on all northern Manitoba reserves as well.
However, Ottawa says it’s up to the province to expand policing in the north, while the Manitoba government insists the federal government must approve funding first.
“There’s got to be some timelines on how to improve police services,” said Grand Chief David Harper.
But many fear that the issue could take months – even years – to resolve.
With a report from CTV’s Jill Macyshon