The new protocol to enhance local COVID-19 bylaw enforcement for Manitoba First Nations

WINNIPEG — The MKO, the Manitoba RCMP and the Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC) have worked together to develop a protocol that will help officers enforce the local COVID-19 bylaws enacted by First Nation communities in Northern Manitoba.

The groups announced the new protocol on Tuesday, saying it will also help the PPSC prosecute bylaw offences related to the pandemic.

MKO Grand Chief Garrison Settee said the protocol will provide a number of MKO First Nations with an additional tool to combat COVID-19.

“It’s also a first step in addressing the decades-old problem of the lack of enforcement and prosecution of Indian Act bylaws on reserves,” he said.

Once an MKO First Nation signs the ‘Protocol relating to the Enforcement and Prosecution of ByLaw(s) adopted pursuant to s. 81 and 85.1 of the Indian Act,’ the RCMP can enforce bylaws, investigate offences and lay charges on those who defy the local COVID-19 bylaws. Should it decide to do so, the PPSC will also be able to prosecute those who have been charged by RCMP officers.

The protocol will be rolled out to the 26 MKO First Nations.

“The protocol is not a long-term fix,” Settee said.

“It’s an enforcement and prosecution currently during this pandemic.”

He noted that the pandemic has shown the gaps in recognizing, respecting, enforcing and prosecuting of First Nations laws and bylaws.

“The pandemic has highlighted the important opportunities to work together to change federal, provincial and First Nations legislative frameworks,” Settee said.

The agreement will remain in place until Sept. 30, 2021, unless all parties decide to renew it.

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