The provincial government has announced the launch of a new grant for Indigenous communities and municipalities in Alberta to help establish their own stand-alone police services.
Justice Minister Tyler Shandro said at a Thursday news conference that the Community Policing Grant will offer up to $30,000 and provide an “on-ramp” for communities who want to move forward in creating their own police forces.
“We’ve heard from a lot of municipalities and Indigenous communities who want to take those steps forward, and not knowing how to do it,” Shandro said.
“So [it’s] just an opportunity to work with those communities.”
The province also announced $150,000 for the three existing self-administered or community tripartite Indigenous police services in Alberta.
Tsuut’ina Nation Police Service, Blood Tribe Police Service and Lakeshore Regional Police Service cover seven First Nations, and fall under the Federal First Nation Inuit Policing Program (FNIPP).
The province will also add five officers to each service over the next four years, Shandro said.
“That money is truly important,” said Chief Keith Blake from the Tsuut’ina Nation Police Service, which has 26 officers.
“And the addition of five officers to each of our services … means a huge amount of support that we can now provide our community that in previous years, we could not.”
Policing costs under the FNIPP are split between the federal government, which pays 52 per cent, and the province, which pays 48 per cent.
Blake says funding levels are significantly lower for community police services, and funding agreements are year-to-year.
He also said the structure of the FNIPP stops Tsuut’ina Nation Police Service from using federal funding for legal advice, or for starting specialized units such as forensic identification or homicide sections.
“It creates inequities in what we can and can’t do, it puts prescribed restrictions on a lot of the things other police services take for granted,” said Blake, who has been with the service for over nine years.
Blake said he hopes this announcement will lead to the federal government recognize the importance revamping the FNIPP so that Indigenous policing is designated an essential service with long-term funding.
Though it hasn’t happened yet, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in 2020 this change would be made soon.
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