(OTTAWA) The association that represents Canada’s 36 self-governing First Nations police forces supports a human rights complaint, which alleges that the federal government’s “deliberate underfunding” to ensure public safety in these communities amounts to discrimination.

Jerel Swamp, who chairs the First Nations Chiefs of Police Association, said after discussing the complaint filed by Ontario’s Indigenous chiefs of police – of which he is also a member – the executive of the national association had decided to support it. She is also considering seeking intervener status in this complaint at the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

Chief Swamp said that despite assurances from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government that it would enact changes and declare Indigenous policing an “essential service”, nothing has been done.

“What we believe is that all First Nations communities in Canada deserve the same public safety that all other Canadians take for granted,” Swamp said in an interview Monday.

The complaint, filed last week by the nine Aboriginal police forces in Ontario, challenges the 1991 program used by the federal government to fund these police services, with the participation of the provinces.

Indigenous leaders have argued for years that this First Nations and Inuit Policing Program is severely underfunded.

An internal evaluation of the program, released last year by the Department of Public Safety, also shows that the “limited amount” of its budget has led to underfunding of police agreements, which has created “constant operational challenges.” for Indigenous police forces.

However, the complaint alleges that the federal government’s inaction amounts to “deliberate discriminatory behavior” against Indigenous communities.

“Due to Canada’s discriminatory conduct, the establishment of fair policing services for Indigenous communities, comparable to policing and security services experienced in the rest of the country, remains out of reach for Indigenous peoples in Canada.

“In simple and tragic terms: The reason Indigenous people on reserve are not as safe as non-Indigenous Canadians off reserve is their Indigenous identity. »

The complaint, filed last week and first reported by The Globe and Mail, has been filed with the Canadian Human Rights Commission, which is the first step to eventually landing it before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. of the person.

The federal Department of Public Safety has not yet responded to a request for comment. The plaintiffs seek $40,000 in damages for people living in communities served by Indigenous police forces.

Ontario Aboriginal Chiefs of Police Chair Kai Liu, who also leads the Treaty 3 Police Service in the northwest of the province, said Monday that a new funding formula must be found, based on the real needs of a community rather than on an amount submitted by Ottawa.

Liu says Ottawa approaches funding renewals with a “take it or leave it” attitude, which leaves no room for negotiation. These concerns were also flagged during the departmental review of the program last year.

“We monitor 23 First Nations communities,” Chief Liu said of his service. Our response time varies between one and three hours. »

The complaint also points to multiple stabbings last year in the Cree community of James Smith, Saskatchewan, which again highlighted the need for increased security in Indigenous communities – improvements that the Prime Minister Trudeau himself had pledged to bring.

Mr. Trudeau and the Minister of Public Security, Marco Mendicino, had notably promised to table a bill making these Indigenous police forces an essential service. The government has still not provided a timeline, saying only that it was consulting with various stakeholders.

Police Chief Swamp pointed out that last September Minister Mendicino said he would work to introduce the bill by late fall 2022, which has not happened. He said frustration was growing among police chiefs.

The federal budget presented last week also did not mention this bill.