Treaty 8 is not in favour of a provincial police force in Alberta, a sentiment Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam says was shared with Justice Minister and Solicitor General Kaycee Madu in July.
“We mentioned that to Minister Madu at a meeting in High Level. It was addressed to him there with all the chiefs at the table and I brought it to Minister Madu’s attention. I told him we weren’t interested,” said Adam, who also serves as grand chief of Justice for Treaty 8.
“Ever since then, Minister Madu hasn’t answered my phone call or text messages at all.”
Today Madu announced the province’s interest in following up on a report that it commissioned from Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) to examine the transition of policing services from the RCMP to an Alberta Provincial Police Service (APPS). He committed to consulting with Indigenous communities.
“I have been clear from day one that it was important for me for all of our Indigenous communities and leaders to be fully consulted on what this would mean to their communities. Ultimately we want to partner with them, we want to collaborate with them to ensure their communities are safe. And I have directed my department to begin that particular effort,” said Madu in a news conference.
PwC undertook the transition study from October 2020 to April 2021.
In its 100-page final report, PwC reiterated the call by the Indigenous participants in the transition study for “fulsome engagement” by the province.
“This project had limited discussion with First Nations and Métis groups in Alberta in the development of this report (and) that is not considered sufficient engagement with those communities,” reads the report.
PwC has put forward a proposed model for APPS which it says focuses on “innovation, community engagement and collaboration, problem solving and proactive community policing….”
Presently police services for First Nations communities are provided by RCMP members in detachments off-reserve or through community tripartite agreements, which enhance police services (in place in 22 First Nations). As well, there are three standalone First Nations police services in Alberta—the Blood Tribe, Tsuut'ina First Nations and the Lakeshore Regional Police Service—that serve seven First Nations.
Policing for Métis Settlements is provided through Provincial Policing Service Agreements.
The new model proposed by PwC sets out concepts for policing in Indigenous communities to include increased autonomy of the communities to “lead and define” how policing is delivered; specialized police training; an Indigenous advisory panel that would report to the chief of police; and exploring ways that APPS could support the creation and viability of self-administered First Nations Police Services.
This is not what Treaty 8 is after, says Adam.
The support they want from the province would be for a tripartite agreement that sees help in funding a Treaty 8 police force.
“We’ve been treated wrong for a long time and it’s time to fix the problem. And the only way we can do it is to have our own police force,” Adam said.
He sees no advantage in a provincial police force.
“I view the city police in Edmonton or in Calgary as far more dangerous than the RCMP are when it comes to handling reports to First Nations people just based on evidence that I see when it’s being broadcast on the news or footage on postings on Facebook on behaviours,” he said.
Adam points to the recent dismantling of a protest tipi camp on the Alberta legislature grounds. Edmonton Police Service moved in and arrested the “elderly women” there.
“That’s a provincial police. They have no respect,” he said.
Madu continually drew on the strength of the Ontario Provincial Police and Surete du Quebec for reason’s why Alberta could have its own successful police force.
However, Windspeaker.com brought to the minister’s attention strained relationships Indigenous peoples have with the provincial police forces in both Ontario and Quebec.
Madu said the same relationship would not happen in Alberta because “we are going to sit down with them to figure out with them the policing priorities of their communities that is culturally sensitive and in line with their expectations of safety and overall wellbeing of their people and their nations.”
Adam is concerned that a provincial police force would not know how to handle rural situations.
“The fact remains, the RCMP have a good understanding of what’s going on. They know the areas outside of the cities. We rely on them still … They still answer to the calls. We have to continue to work with them,” he said.
However, he says Treaty 8’s priority still is creating its own police force.
“(Alberta) would finally realize how easy it is to work with First Nations instead of going against them. We will work with the Alberta judicial system,” said Adam.
Madu was repeatedly pressed during the news conference to explain how a loss of $200 million from the federal government in RCMP funding to Alberta, would be made up. He insisted taxes would not rise.
“It will be more cost effective for this province to establish their own provincial police. But more than anything else it is important that I make this particular point: As Justice minister I took an oath to defend our province’s best interest. And, ultimately this is part of that calculation,” said Madu.
Consultation, both virtual and in-person (depending on coronavirus pandemic measures), will take place from November to early spring 2022. A public survey will also be undertaken.
Madu insisted the government had not made a decision on transitioning from the RCMP to a provincial police services and more “analysis and consultation” was required.
If the nod is given, the transition will be a phased in over five to six years.
“The provincial government… and municipalities through the Police Funding Model… have made significant investments in the Alberta RCMP as their provincial police service, and we have been using those investments to respond to the needs of citizens and communities—moving forward many operational goals and innovative policing initiatives,” said Deputy Commissioner Curtis Zablocki, commanding officer of the Alberta RCMP.
The report can be read at: https://open.alberta.ca/publications/apps-transition-study-final-report
By Shari Narine, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com, Windspeaker.com