Saskatchewan government gives more funding to Indigenous police programs

Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Chief Bobby Cameron speaks during a Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations event at James Smith Cree Nation, Sask., on Sept. 8, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Heywood Yu

The government of Saskatchewan is giving more funding to several police programs aimed at helping First Nations people.

The File Hills First Nations Police Service will receive increased funding and the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations’ Special Investigation Unit will receive continued support.

Read more: James Smith Cree Nation Chief calls for First Nations police service

The Saskatchewan government seems to be making good on a promise made last year. After the mass killings in the James Smith Cree Nation, several Saskatchewan leaders, such as Chief Wally Burns of the James Smith Cree Nation, Chief Duane Antoine of Poundmaker Cree Nation, and Grand Chief Brian Hardlotte of the Prince Albert Grand Council, pushed for First Nations to start policing themselves.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said in early September of last year that the provincial government was willing to have those conversations with Indigenous communities and the federal government.

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On Monday the government of Saskatchewan announced it is increasing the funding for the File Hills First Nations Police Service by approximately $357,000. File Hills is the only Indigenous police service in the province and serves five First Nations communities located in the Treaty Four Tribal Territory: Okanese, Peepeekisis, Carry the Kettle, Star Blanket and Little Black Bear First Nations.

“The File Hills First Nations Police Service is an excellent example of how government and First Nations can work together to provide proactive, culturally sensitive policing,” Corrections, Policing and Public Safety Minister Christine Tell said.

On Wednesday the Saskatchewan government also renewed its commitment to FSIN’s Special Investigation Unit (SIU) with an operating grant this year of $88,000.​

The SIU helps Indigenous citizens with submitting complaints about police misconduct to the Saskatchewan Public Complaints Commission and the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP (CRCC). The unit supports complainants as they move through the process.​

Read more: Feds aim to table First Nations policing bill this fall after Saskatchewan stabbings

The Saskatchewan RCMP’s commanding officer, Assistant Commissioner Rhonda Blackmore, told Global News that services like FSIN’s SIU are very needed.

“It is really important that the RCMP is transparent to the public,” Blackmore said. “If there is criticism that is warranted, we need to know about that. That is why the SIU is so helpful, because It gives First Nations people that opportunity to relay concerns in an environment that they are more comfortable with. Otherwise, they might never make a report and we need to know about an issue before we can fix it.”

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Blackmore added that programs like the FSIN SIU help build trust between RCMP and First Nations.

The provincial government is also working with the Prince Albert Grand Council on a report with police reform recommendations, which is expected in the spring of 2025. This could set the stage for more Indigenous policing in Saskatchewan.

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