THUNDER BAY – Northern Ontario Communities served by the Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service could see their communities without their usual officers on duty. NAPS Officers could be hitting the picket line rather than going on patrol in just over two weeks.
The Public Service Alliance of Canada’s (PSAC) negotiating team met with a conciliator to attempt to negotiate a fair agreement with the Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service (NAPS) on August 24, 2016.
Unfortunately, a deal could not be reached and PSAC has now asked the Ontario Labour Relations Board to file a No Board report, allowing for a legal strike or lock-out within 17 days of receiving the report.
Several key issues are left to resolve, including the safety of officers who often work by themselves in extremely remote locations, leaving them without backup for hours should an incident take place.
“Low staffing levels and outdated equipment put officers in danger, along with the communities they service”, says Jason Storkson, a police officer in the community and the union local president.
Although these officers have the same training as any other police officer in the province, with many having come from the OPP, their rates of pay are substantially lower than there OPP counterparts.
“NAPS officers protect two thirds of Ontario, a geographic area larger than many countries in the world. Why should they work in conditions that would not be tolerated by any other police force in Canada?” states, Sharon DeSousa, PSAC Regional Executive Vice-President for Ontario. “Both Liberal governments, at the provincial and federal level, have the power to put an end to this discriminatory situation. It is time they show leadership.”
PSAC has been lobbying both levels of government to send a clear message; the safety and security of First Nations communities in Ontario is dependent upon adequately resourcing First Nations policing. These police officers deserve the same support as their colleagues working in other police forces.
NAPS officers provide culturally-sensitive policing services in 35 First Nation communities, covering two-thirds of Ontario, from Thunder Bay to Hudson’s Bay. NAPS officers have been trying to enforce an arbitrator’s decision from 2015 that would see them move closer to Ontario Provincial Police compensation, who perform similar duties in non-First Nation communities. In addition to equitable wages, NAPS officers are looking for increased staffing and addressing health and safety issues. Many officers work in remote northern communities alone, with back up a minimum of four hours away.