RCMP could mend ties with Mi'kmaq by reopening bid for N.S. 911 centre, national chief says

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The Assembly of First Nations national chief says the RCMP could begin mending its relationship with Nova Scotia First Nations, which has been strained by the recent lobster fishery dispute, by reopening bidding on the Mounties' new provincial communications centre.

Chief Perry Bellegarde said Millbrook First Nation "was not provided with an equal opportunity" on the bid for the centre that is now scheduled to open in the RCMP's provincial headquarters in Dartmouth by 2021, according to a Nov. 18 letter to RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki.

"Given recent events in Nova Scotia concerning the lobster fishery and the failure of the RCMP to provide adequate protection of First Nations fishers, the perception of bias and an unfair process in this decision must be addressed," Bellegarde wrote in a letter obtained by CBC News.

"A fair and transparent process would go a long way to rebuilding trust and mark an important step toward reconciliation."

The RCMP communications centre handles 911 calls, calls from the public and dispatches for 54 detachments and districts.

Bellegarde called for Lucki's resignation in late October on grounds Nova Scotia RCMP officers failed to protect Mi'kmaw fishers from commercial fishers whose sometimes violent protests against a treaty-based fishery led to arson charges and physical confrontations.

The Nova Scotia RCMP announced in 2019 it was moving its emergency dispatch centre from Truro, N.S., to its own headquarters following a bidding process criticized as biased.

Robert Short/CBC
Robert Short/CBC

Millbrook First Nation Chief Robert Gloade previously told CBC News the RCMP "arbitrarily inflated" his community's bid by $1.6 million. Millbrook sits next to Truro.

Millbrook's proposal was the second cheapest relocation option behind the headquarters move, according to an internal report previously provided to CBC News.

The RCMP assigned an extra $1.6 million to every relocation except its headquarters option, which was given a zero for rent costs.

However, Public Works records provided to CBC News show the cost of rental space in the building housing its headquarters is $547 per square metre and total current annual rent is $10.5 million.

Bill Casey, a former Nova Scotia MP, has been lobbying to reopen the bidding process.

Casey has said the move to place the RCMP dispatch centre 10 kilometres from the Halifax Regional Police's own communication facility puts the province at risk.

A 2004 RCMP report warned against placing the dispatch centre in Halifax because it posed a risk that one event could undermine the communication centres of both the regional police and the RCMP.

"This is a chance to correct a wrong and show good faith in future dealings with Indigenous communities," wrote Casey to Lucki in an Oct. 28 letter he provided to CBC News.

"It is never too late to do the right thing."