OTTAWA – Three shootings of First Nations individuals have raised concern from the Assembly of First Nations. AFN National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo is expressing his support to the families of those affected by three police related shootings over the past week. Three separate shooting incidents involving the police and First Nations individuals in Pigeon Lake First Nation and Grande Cache, Alberta and Oneida Nation of the Thames in Ontario. Those incidents have left one dead and two in critical condition. Independent bodies mandated to investigate police related incidents are beginning their work in both provinces.
First Nations Seek Impartial Investigations in Shootings
“First Nations leadership and citizens demand thorough, impartial investigations to uncover the full truth and circumstances behind these events. These incidents demonstrate the need for First Nation police services to act as the primary police service for First Nation communities and to be empowered to resolve matters in a fair and culturally appropriate manner,” stated National Chief Atleo. “The use of force should be understood and employed only as a last resort. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and communities affected by these incidents.”
The National Chief noted that the federal First Nations Policing Policy views police services such as the RCMP and OPP as the primary police service of jurisdiction for First Nations. First Nation police services do not have a primary role and are seen as enhancing or supporting the police service of jurisdiction.
AFN Public Security Portfolio holder, Alberta Regional Chief Cameron Alexis stated: “First Nation police services are in a state of crisis because they have not received a substantial increase in funding levels since 2007. The federal government’s commitment to maintain the previous funding levels for the next five years is a positive step but it does not address the chronic underfunding of these essential services for First Nation communities. Despite limited resources, our police services continue to provide their communities with above average results. Ongoing limitations on adequate funding will compromise the level of service provided in the future. Through an adequate consultation process, First Nation leadership must have in place a police service of their choice that meets the needs of the people they serve and is culturally competent.”
The National Chief also pointed to the recent video showing 24-year-old Norbert Mestenapeo of Unamen Shipu, QC being beaten by two Quebec police officers as another in a long line of incidents demonstrating the need to support and promote First Nations police services.
“The issues with the federal First Nation Policing Policy need to be addressed to ensure our communities and citizens have public safety agencies to provide the protection and security we all deserve,” concluded National Chief Atleo.