Blue Line

Recognition of First Nations rights a ‘sticking’ point in new policing law plan: AFN

July 12, 2023  By The Canadian Press

July 12, 2023, Ottawa, Ont. – Recognizing First Nations rights in a proposed policing bill with Ottawa is a “sticking” point in the negotiations, a lawyer for the Assembly of First Nations announced Wednesday.

Julie McGregor updated chiefs gathered in Halifax on work to develop a law that would declare policing on First Nations an essential service – something Indigenous leaders have spent years calling for.

She told the organization’s general assembly that the Department of Public Safety had provided a written explanation of what it does and doesn’t plan to do with the legislation.

“It advised it does not have the mandate for inclusion of First Nations jurisdiction or rights recognition in the proposed legislation,” McGregor said.


“We would say that’s their interpretation … because there is the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act and Canada’s commitment to implementing the UN Declaration.”

She added: “There is a basis for them to recognize jurisdiction and rights.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised that his government would bring forward a new law in 2020.

Calls for its introduction were amplified last year after 11 people were stabbed and killed on James Smith Cree Nation and the nearby community of Weldon, Sask., where the RCMP was the police service of jurisdiction.

The majority of First Nations across Canada do not have their own dedicated service.

And leaders of First Nations police services that do exist say they are cash-strapped under an inequitable funding program that is shared with provinces.

On Wednesday, McGregor told chiefs that the organization told Ottawa in February it wants the legislation to include “full rights recognition.”

It only received a response back from Public Safety Minister Marc Mendicino last week, she said.

McGregor said the minister communicated that he is committed to sorting out the jurisdiction issue with fellow cabinet ministers.

Mendicino has said he is committed to expanding to First Nations policing and has been working with individual communities and tribal councils to advance options.

But while the minister said last year that he hoped to table a bill by the fall, nothing was introduced before MPs broke for a summer recess in June.

His office has since stopped offering any details on a timeline for the legislation, citing the complexity of co-developing it.

Neither Public Safety nor the minister’s office has responded to a request for comment.

Ghislain Picard, a member of the Assembly of First Nations executive who deals with justice matters, said they are hoping to see the bill presented when Parliament resumes in the fall.

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