Mendicino said Wednesday that the creation of a Siksika Nation police force will not happen overnight, but that it is clear the process must be accelerated.
Canadian Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino was in Calgary on Wednesday as part of a tour of Western Canada to highlight federal efforts to support First Nations policing and combat rising gun violence in the country.
Mendicino traveled to the Siksika First Nation to the east of the city on Wednesday morning before touring the Awo Taan refuge alongside local MP George Chahal. While in Siksika, he met with Chief Ouray Crowfoot and other council members to discuss the nation’s proposal to create its own police force.
Mendicino said the meeting was positive, constructive and an opportunity to reiterate that he believes all parties are in agreement when it comes to police reform in the community.
“I want to make it clear that I think all parties are very much aligned that this work of moving forward with indigenous police reform is essential,” Mendicino said. “What I see are the concrete next steps for all parties to sit down together to define what the way forward is.”
The Southern Alberta First Nation had its own police force. 1992 to 2002 before funding was withdrawn. The provincial government and the Siksika Nation have signed a memorandum of understanding agree to work together to improve public safety and develop a funding framework for a new police service.
Alberta Attorney General Tyler Shandro said earlier this month that a major hurdle to creating a new police force is waiting for the federal government to finish a review. of its First Nations and Inuit Watch Program and called for the program freeze to be lifted.
Mendicino said Wednesday that the creation of a police force will not happen overnight, but that it is clear that the process must be accelerated.
“That was my promise to (Siksika) was to accelerate the pace of progress when it came to indigenous police reform for Siksika and that is a commitment that I have been making throughout my western tour,” Mendicino said.
Crowfoot said that no concrete actions came out of the meeting, but that they did not expect any kind of agreement to be signed at this time. He said meeting with Mendicino was a good first step in the process.
“I want to say that the general feeling of the meeting is good. I think there are some good next steps,” Crowfoot said. “We gave them a copy of our police business case and again a good positive response, but again nothing concrete.”
After their meeting in Siksika, Mendicino visited Awo Taan, a shelter for women fleeing domestic violence, to talk about what the federal government is doing to combat gun violence.
The minister said that after several years of increased gun violence in Canada, the statu guo is not acceptable. In response, the government introduced Bill C-21 which would see a national firearms freeze and address the role of guns in domestic violence, as well as help law enforcement with gun smuggling through the national border.
It would also introduce red flag laws intended to keep guns out of the hands of people who might pose a threat to themselves or others.
— With Canadian Press archives