OTTAWA — Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino is pledging to "work around the clock" to table legislation this fall declaring Indigenous policing an essential service.
Doing so would fulfil a commitment Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made years ago to First Nations leaders.
Lennard Busch, the executive director of the First Nations Chiefs of Police Association, says their policing services are treated as add-ons within country's existing model.
Busch says legislation is needed to formally recognize that First Nations policing is as necessary as a force like the RCMP.
"It's never soon enough for us," he said in a recent interview.
The recent stabbing rampage in Saskatchewan that left 11 people dead and 18 others injured, many of them on James Smith Cree Nation, has amplified calls for more Indigenous-led policing.
Wally Burns, the nation's chief, has been among the voices calling for tribal policing.
There are 35 First Nations police services across the country, and Busch says he sees a growing demand for more, having fielded dozens of calls from communities and groups interested in starting their own.
He says funding remains a major issue. As it stands, a First Nations police service receives funding through a program created in 1991, in which costs are shared with the province.
Busch says the process of setting up a force is complex and typically takes years. Not only is money needed to hire and retain staff, he says there is also a need for adequate funding to outfit officers with the proper technology.
Mendicino says the government is developing the legislation with Indigenous partners and that he spent the summer meeting about the upcoming bill.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 21, 2022.
Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press